Real bear behind Winnie the Pooh revealed to be a girl

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 06:47AM
A new book reveals that the real-life black bear cub that served as the inspiration for "Winnie the Pooh" was actually female.

Wednesday is Winnie the Pooh Day, in honor of the birthday of author AA Milne. The affable bear has been the hero of countless children's tales about him over the decades. But many may not realize that the real-life bear behind "Winnie the Pooh" was actually a she, according to a book about the bear.

The book, Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear, details the rich history of the female black bear cub named Winnie who would become the inspiration for the classic children's character. During World War I, Winnie was purchased by Canadian veterinarian Harry Coleburn, who named the cub after his home city of Winnipeg. Winnie became a regiment mascot during Coleburn's months of battlefield training. But when he was deployed to France, Coleburn realized he could no longer keep Winnie safe, and brought her to the London Zoo who looked after the cub for the rest of the war, according to WBUR.

It was at the London Zoo when author A.A. Milne came across Winnie with his son Christopher Robin Milne (whose name would also be used in the children's books.) Christopher was enamored by the cub and named his own teddy bear after her. The two would become the inspiration for the characters of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin in Milne's iconic series.

Lindsay Mattick, the author of the book and great grand-daughter of the veterinarian who found Winnie, said that her family's story needed to be told. "I knew I was going to have a child and I thought, there was no better way to explain to them this amazing family story than to do it as a picture book," Mattick told WBUR. While Mattick's book reveals that the real-life Winnie was a girl, the character Winnie the Pooh, however, is still a boy.

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