LOUIS CYR – The Strongest Man in History

Not all Human Marvels are unique in appearance. Many are unique in their deeds. Some of the most unfathomable deeds and physical feats were performed by the strongmen of sideshow. Perhaps the most famous of these strongmen was the Canadian Colossus Louis Cyr.

Louis Cyr was born Cyprien-Noé Cyr on October 10, 1863 in the Quebec town of St. Cyprien de Napierville. Louis was a large child, weighing close to 18 pounds at birth and, from an early age, those around him were impressed with his natural strength. At the age of twelve Louis was a lumberjack and stories of his strength became legendary amongst his peers and coworkers. In 1878, at the age of seventeen, Louis and his family immigrated to the United States. Standing just five feet and ten inches – but weighing in at over 230 pounds – Louis presented his first public display of strength in Boston during a strongest man competition. He stunned the crowd by lifting a horse clear off the ground.

Attempting to capitalize on his stunning performance, Louis returned to Quebec in 1882 and went on a brief tour of Quebec with his wife and family as ‘The Troupe Cyr’. At the conclusion of his tour, Louis became a police officer in Montreal.

Restless in his vocation, he entered another strongman competition in March of 1886 hosted by Quebec City. His competition was ‘World’s Strongest Man’ David Michaud and Louis Cyr bested Michaud easily. During the competition, Louis lifted a 218-pound barbell with one hand. The best Michaud could manage was 158 pounds. Louis also amazed is opponent by squatting a platform weighing 2,371 pounds. Louis was now ‘officially’ the strongest man in in the world.

It is important to note that the physical feats performed by strongmen are often exaggerated and Louis was no exception to this rule. There are stories surrounding Louis that border on the impossible. However many of his feats were formally documented by witnesses and officials. While touring the world Louis once squatted a platform holding 18 men. He also lifted a 500-pound weight with one finger and, in a stunning publicity stunt, pushed a freight car up an incline. His greatest feat of all occurred on October 12th 1891, in Montreal. On that occasion he legitimately won a tug-of-war against four horses.

Although Louis Cyr died of chronic nephritis on November 10th, 1912 his legacy lives on. He was dubbed ‘The Strongest Man in History’ for his amazing physical strength and today there is a district of Montreal named Louis-Cyr in his honor. It is located in Saint-Henri – the same area he patrolled as a police officer. There is also a park, the Parc Louis-Cyr, named after Louis and a statue of ‘The Strongest Man in History’ has stood in the Place des Hommes-Forts – ‘Strongman’s Square’ – since 1970.

The cause of his herculean strength is still unknown but during his remarkable lifetime Louis never backed down from a challenge and he was undefeated in Canada and abroad.

image: a modified promotional photo of Louis Cyr in the priviate collection of the author.

Author, researcher and an expert of the odd, J. Tithonus Pednaud has been chronicling bizarre history and highlighting the lives of those born exceeding different for over a decade.

69 Comments

  • Reply October 28, 2008

    Kakallika

    That’s awesome!

  • Reply January 16, 2009

    Collier Todd Hageman

    Part of Cyr’s act was to dangle a rope ladder over the edge of a high platform from one finger, which his wife would then climb up. An old poster of this feat showed him doing it with his pinkie. Louis was also famous as a worldclass trencherman, and his intake of food and drink was legendary. His mass increased as he got older and his weight was something over 300 lbs.

  • Reply January 27, 2009

    gilbert

    those strongmen had this strange habit to pose almost naked . they prbably took it from the greeks . strange ideas from the 19 th century victorian century.

  • Reply February 24, 2009

    peter dicks

    my fathes dad used o talk about him in the days when i was young boy i remember him sayin that when we when fishing one day he said the fish pull hard ;but i knew a man named louis cyr who pulled a train along a rail way line for a mile an if this fish keeps pullin i will be here for a while an thats gospel /

  • Reply April 15, 2009

    amber baudais

    This man is part of my family on my mothers side of the family the cyr family. its good to finally find information about my past family tree.
    I knew parts of his life, but its nice to finally find more then just one thing about my great great great grandfather

  • Reply April 15, 2009

    J Tithonus Pednaud

    Excellent. He was a remarkable man. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Reply April 22, 2009

    Lembit

    His weight were more than 160 KG,I like Saxon And Lurich more,that
    weight were much lower than his.But of course Louis Cyr is father
    of strength.Natural guy.no steroids or bench press shirt or something
    what is not natural.But even Louis Cyr personally can’t beat saxon’s bent press,what is outstanding 160 kg(bent press means with one hand
    to press bar)

  • Reply May 19, 2009

    donald dassylva

    he is also a part of my family tree and i have a pic of his parents hanging in my living room

  • Reply June 18, 2009

    Rachael Ruud

    My great-great-great uncle. We have a picture of him on our fridge.

    • Reply August 3, 2012

      CAROLINE CYR

      He just so happens to be my great great great uncle as well :)

  • Reply July 13, 2009

    Seb

    As for the cause – this reminds me of the recent cases of (and genetical engineering on) blocked myostatin.

  • Reply September 7, 2009

    Peter Mancini

    Strongest human in history was Paul Anderson. With respect to Mr Cyr, no one nas lifted anything close to Mr Anderson’s back lift of over 6200 lbs. N o one has equaled Anderson 300lb single arm press for 10 reps, and only recently has anyone squated 1200Lbs, and that bwith a squat suit and a bit of chemical help.

    Do your research guys

    • Reply May 1, 2013

      Collier Hageman

      I am a fan of Louis Cyr, but the strength feats of the great Paul Anderson do eclipse most of Cyr’s. There is lots of anecdotal evidence that another mighty Canadian, of an earlier era, was stronger than either of these men: Angus MacAskill – the largest non-acromegalic man known. In other words, he was not afflicted with clinical giantism. He was simply an extremely large, powerfully-built man (7’9″ 450-500 lbs). Stories of his strength are legendary in Nova Scotia, the most famous being his lifting a ship’s anchor that could’ve weighed close to a ton.

  • Reply September 8, 2009

    J Tithonus Pednaud

    Peter,

    Paul Anderson has never been credited as ‘The Strongest Man in History’ and he has never been advertised as such nor did he ever make the claim himself. He has been credited for lifting the most weight ever by a human being, the 6270 lbs back lift.

    Louis Cyr was known as The Strongest Man in History, it’s his epithet. Pound for pound and deed to deed, I’d wager that it was accurate title as well.

    • Reply May 1, 2013

      Collier Hageman

      It’s true that Paul Anderson was never called the strongest man in history. He was called the strongest man in the world.
      6270 lb. back lift. 1200+ lb. squat.(John Grimek witnessed Paul do a set of 10 “quickly” with 900 lbs.) 560 lb. push-press. 360 lb. 1 arm overhead press. 400+ lb. strict military press. He could drive a 10 penny nail through a 2×4 with his hand, leap flat-footed up onto a 3 ft. high platform, squat $10,000 in silver dollars, and bested an Olympic sprinter in a 50 yd. dash. I think he qualifies.

  • Reply October 22, 2009

    hope

    He weighed 18 pounds at birth? His mother should get a prize.

  • Reply October 31, 2009

    Mackenzie Cyr

    How is weighing 18 puonds at birth even possible!?
    Could it be that I’m related to this guy?

  • Reply December 9, 2009

    William Bruce

    Louis Cyr was my Grandma’s great uncle. While a lot of accounts
    of his feats of strength are true, use judgement in that in the olden days, some of his feats may have been embellished or exagerated. In his last days, he paid for these feats in pain from arthritis and hernia. The Cyr (also spelled Cyrre and St.Cyr) are one of the biggest French families in North America. Two became prominent hockey players in the 80′s (Paul Cyr and Denis Cyr).

  • Reply February 16, 2010

    Marlene

    I’m proud to have this man in my family tree. My mother’s maiden name was Cyr. I have met a lot of Cyr’s , it’s a big family !! There were a number of brothers that were born, they scattered around, Louis’ family ended up in the Maritimes. My mothers family came from New Brunswick.

    I’m always on the look out for any information on my family.

  • Reply April 26, 2010

    Gage

    I thought Angus MacAskill was the strongest man in history… but he was a lot bigger than Louis.

  • Reply May 6, 2010

    Therrien ( last name )

    Yes! I finally found him! He is my grand father’s father and ive heard all about him , but i never could find much but hear that he “suppositly” ate himself to death, glad to hear something else , and something true for once =3
    Are we all related if you say he is apart of your family too?
    I wouldnt mind :)

  • Reply May 6, 2010

    Therrien ( last name )

    Would anyone, by any chance answer me if they have the time thank you!!

  • Reply July 1, 2010

    karen mccarthy

    my grandmother was flora cyr. supposedly louis was her cousin or uncle not sure. heard of him yrs ago.very proud of him

  • Reply July 3, 2010

    Jennifer Allaire

    He is a great(x4) uncle of mine. All the men in my family have a freakish resemblance to him I am the first female and good think that mold broke at my father in looks. Our family has always been pretty strong and I am sure the people at a campground in Niagara Falls will sure remember a 160 pound girl moving a full tent trailer and spinning it into position, on my own. I will ask my grandmother exactly what the family line is though (who married who and who gave birth to whom).

  • Reply August 19, 2010

    Coleen

    I heard Louis Cyr was my grandmother Ida Ethier’s grandfather. I don’t know what her parents names were.

  • Reply September 17, 2010

    Jill

    Louis Cyr is my son-in-law’s great great grandfather. My son-in-law and his youngest son, my grandson, look remarkably similar to this pohoto of Louis. It’s really quite bizarre. I swear if you put a moustache on 6 month old Hunter Cyr, they could be twins!
    I’ve passed this onto my daughter and her family.

  • Reply November 6, 2010

    Megan Sutherland

    Wow, I am amazed to see everyone who is related to Louis Cyr as I am as well. He is my mothers great grandfather, my great great grandfather.

  • Reply November 8, 2010

    Taylor Walters

    Mr. Cyr is a distant relative of mine, this is pretty awesome :)

  • Reply February 6, 2011

    Forrest Anthony Cristilly

    I am very proud to be related to such a man as Louis st. Cyr.

  • Reply February 20, 2011

    Richard Cicerelle

    Louis Cyr was my mothers 2nd cousin, at birth 18 lbs. was amazing, the first thing he asked for was a roast beef sandwich

  • Reply March 8, 2011

    Jessica Bedard

    I was just reading all these comments and every other person is related to him, thats too funny if thats true because according to my father we related too ahahah

  • Reply March 31, 2011

    Camille

    According to my father who was Born in Quebec, he is also our distant relative. so crazy all these people claim to be related if this is so, thats one big family we should get together…… lol.

  • Reply April 12, 2011

    Maiden name was CYR

    I know Louis is in my blood line as it is in a book Cyr geneology. I wish I could connect to relatives. I live in Maine my father was born in Canada.

  • Reply April 26, 2011

    Cassy Million

    Ive heard he is my great grandma Dorthy Million (was Cyr)was part of his family… how do i find out if i may be related to Louis Cyr.. for sure find out? (he looks like my family) haha

  • Reply April 26, 2011

    Cassy Million

    Let me rephrase that! ive heard he is part of my Great Grandma Dorthy Million’s side of the family.. she was once a Cyr and ive heard alot of the Million’s and Cyrs are in Mnnesota and Kentucky? not sure.. just heard from my Great grandparents and grandparents.

  • Reply April 26, 2011

    Amy Therrien

    LOL This man was in my family i am proud to say He looks so much like my grandfather xD

  • Reply May 17, 2011

    Collin

    wow i cant believe i found him, his my grat grat grat uncal im so exsited.

  • Reply May 18, 2011

    Christine Bourdelais

    Hi! I have seen the statue. My Grandfather who is now 95 was born to a Cyr. Louis was his Mother’s father’s brother. Many of his offspring moved from Lowell to Lawrence MA. I am 40 and have a 12 year old daughter who weighs 90 pounds and can carry a 225 pound man on her back and beat any teenager arm wrestling. She is SURE that she inherited all of his genes! Mystery solved!

  • Reply May 19, 2011

    LaRae (Cyr) Wright

    WOW…apparently their are a lot of us who believe he was our great, great, great uncle! My brother was actually named after him and both he and my dad are built just like him. We are definitely decendants, we’ve heard stories about him our whole lives (meaning my brother and I). All of us who have posted stating that we are family decendants should really try to get in touch and see how closely our families are related!

  • Reply May 21, 2011

    john st cyr

    looking for relatives fihelibon or isaac ,lazarus ,dora,david bernard with connections to leon st cyr toronto ontario

  • Reply July 30, 2011

    Charles Aimé Bouchart

    According to Ben Weider, Cyr never shown his real strenth because he has never been really challenge. He lift with one hand almost 900 pound and 1900 with two hands. But to me the phenomena was Victor Delamarre born in Hébertville Québec in 1888. He weigted only 154 pounds and was 5’8” tall. Delamarre did a backlift of almost 7 000 pounds officaly recorded in Québec city, better than Paul Anderson. He climed a 19 feet high lader with a 2 260 car attached on his back. When Delamarre was 14 years old he lift easely from the ground a 29 feet long rail (between 700 to 900 pound, 900 pounds according to withnesses).
    Around 1920, while he was walking back home, he saw a poor lumberman who lost control of sleight that slided out of the muddy road. He grab the sleight 5.5′ wide and almost 20 feet long and its content (16 feet lumbers)thet weighted more than 6 000 pound, very easely and put it back on the road. Go on the Web and reach for Victor Delamarre. All this is the truth.

  • Reply July 30, 2011

    Charles Aimé Bouchart

    Last comment: The mother of Louis Cyr was more than 6 feet tall and weighted more than 200 pounds, Cyr sister was stronger than many strong man, his brother smaller was probably one of the trongest mid-heavy weight champion of his time. A familly affair. About Victor Delamarre I still beleive that he was stronger than Cyr and Anderson. One day he caried on his back at 14 years old, for miles, an old fat ad injured priest that weigted more than 400 pound, Delamarre weighted only 110 pounds. Thanks for posting.

  • Reply July 30, 2011

    Charles Aimé Bouchart

    One of my ancestor was a close friend and a competitor of Louis Cyr, French-Canadian like Cyr. He also knew, Horace Barré, David Michaud, Waren Lincoln Travis, De Lamarre and many others.

  • Reply August 21, 2011

    NANCY(LABARGE)NADEAU

    MY GRANDMOTHER’S NEPHEW

  • Reply August 23, 2011

    Hira Animfefte

    Really neat story!
    I guarantee I am not related to Louis Cyr.

  • Reply September 21, 2011

    Cassy Million

    My uncle Flint Million has traced him back to my family and he said that he is also my great great great great uncle? i believe? im not quite sure if this is false information but if it isnt then i guess you guys are all my cousins? haha:)

  • Reply September 26, 2011

    Snyser

    Wow I too am from THE cyr family I am Louis Cyr’s son lets all meet!!!

  • Reply October 17, 2011

    rohan

    he is not good looking i don’t like him

  • Reply December 9, 2011

    glenna thill

    I’m also a relative of louis cyr. My grandfather was david tibodeau and I believe louis would be my great x 4 uncle based on our family tree. I’d love to go to canada and see where he had lived.

  • Reply January 13, 2012

    Trinity

    I just found out a few days ago that I am related to Louis Cyr on my father’s side and he would be my great, great, great grandpa i think.Trying to get the specifics.

  • Reply January 13, 2012

    Trinity

    i believe he was my grandmother’s fathers father? not sure

  • Reply January 15, 2012

    Active slipper manjos

    It is very strange what i have ever seen

  • Reply February 6, 2012

    JT

    Look up Pantelis Koutalianos – classic strongman from the 19th century

  • Reply February 11, 2012

    Charles

    I don’t see how it can be established for fact who the strongest man of all time was/is. Samson, if you want the Bible account, was. Among other men contenders include Maximinus Thrax, Mills Darden, William Carr and Thomas Topham. I can’t see anyone coming close to Topham in terms of pound for pound strength, but Maximinus was 8 feet 6 inches and wore a bracelet as a ring. His statue is in the Vatican Museum. Topham was known for having men dance on his outstretched arms. His testosterone was so intense that he didn’t sound human. On autopsy, his tendons and ligaments were 3 times thicker than normal. So he had the most amazing glandular activation of all men (except as to height and size) and a bizarre leverage. Topham would represent a feat of genetic engineering, and if made the size of Maximinus, could twist any bull gorilla into a pretzel. The clean and jerk is called the king of lifts due to overall testing of bodily strength. Soviet lifter Anatoli Pisarenko (1984) did 606 pounds in training weighing 283 and taller than Cyr. I truly do not see Cyr coming close to cleaning that weight. But Topham could have flipped it up like a broomstick IMO. When Cyr overcame the pull of 4 draft horses, all he did was supply the difference in the pull between the two evenly matched teams—they were pulling against each other in weight transference, not against Cyr. But Maximinus overcame the pull of a chariot team without any horses pulling the opposite direction!

    • Reply February 13, 2012

      J Tithonus Pednaud

      The feats of Maximinus Thrax must be discounted as they cannot be confirmed and were initially recorded in Historia Augusta – a work widely regarded for its tale tales. He was likely a large man in comparison to his contemporaries, due to his barbarian origin, but most historians now agree that the tales of his great size and strength were exaggerated in order to draw greater attention to his wild barbarian history and single him out as a brute – thus not a suitable leader for the Republic. Not enough information is available on Mills Darden although he was likely the largest man to have ever lived. The autopsy story of Thomas Topham has long been regarded as inaccurate. Topham died in 1749 which was not exactly an era of stellar medicine.

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    joe

    louis cyr was my son, great to see a picture of him

  • Reply March 6, 2012

    Russell Brothers

    my dad tells me this mam,Louis cyr was my great great grandfather,this is so kool

    • Reply April 10, 2012

      J Tithonus Pednaud

      Excellent. By the comments here, it appears as though this article has resulted is a family reunion of sorts.

  • Reply March 13, 2012

    Me

    Weird, all that strength but no abs….

    • Reply April 10, 2012

      J Tithonus Pednaud

      They say it is “all in the legs”.

  • Reply April 30, 2012

    Diane Harrington

    Amazing how many of us are related in some small way. Being a part of the extended families it’s an honor to know there is actually something out there besides or family albums to share in the research of more relatives.

  • Reply April 30, 2012

    patrick

    he is in my family history!!!!

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Loretta Cyr

    Didn’t realize that I had so many distand relatives. Louie St Cyr was my Dad’s great uncle. He told us how he went to see him perform at a circus in Boston in the early 1900.

  • Reply July 6, 2012

    J Travis

    Would it be possible to license your photos for a gym renovation in NYC? Please call me at 212-220-0744.

    Thank you!

    J. Travis

  • Reply July 15, 2012

    bruno herff

    I am DAVID O. FONDA;
    Great Great Nephew of Louis Cyr! Grandson of Aurora Cyr His Niece, daughter of His brother Leon ! I am Proud of my Heritage!I am strong also!

  • Reply May 22, 2013

    Don LaPierre

    My Dad told me that his mother was louis cyr’s sister which would be my gramma.

  • Reply August 16, 2013

    Noneck

    Hah !No abd’s , Hah , “barrel chest ” A common term then . Powerlifters have a gut like a piece of titanium under a layer of softer flesh . Punch one in the gut , like me , he just looks at you . Don’t underestimate the power of a lifters gut . It is also our basis , to upright row , or clean the weight . Without it , getting the weight to our shoulders , is impossible . We , he , they , won’t have cut 6 packs of abdominals . Some do ! No need , really . Powerlifting is not bodybuilding !

  • Reply October 9, 2013

    dick st pierre

    louis cyr was brother to my great grandfather leon cyr and i have one of the three original statues of louis cyr cant waite to see the movie

  • Reply January 12, 2014

    GREG

    thank u all for your stories+comments+info. i enjoyed reading about histories stronmen from emperor thrax to angus to mr cyr to mr anderson. great stuff

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