On August 24th, 1914, Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, part of the Canadian Army Veterinarian Corps, was on his way to England to look after horses for the war effort. As he left Port Arthur, Ontario on a train, he scribbled in his notes that he had bought a bear for $20. That bear was “Winnipeg,” or “Winnie” for short, and would change children’s literature forever.
A new children’s book by Lindsay Mattick — Colebourn great-granddaughter — reveals that not only was the bear that would become Winnie the Pooh a real bear, she was a friendly, loving animal that actually met a Christopher Robin at a zoo Winnie called home for over 20 years.
When the real Winnie eventually made it to England, she quickly became the unofficial mascot of Colebourn’s regime. But the front lines were no place for a bear, so on December 9th, 1914, Colebourn drove Winnie to The London Zoo, where she lived a long life and had thousands of visitors. Reportedly, Winnie was the only bear that the zoo trusted comletely, and often let visitors into the enclosure with her. One of those visitors, a frequent guest in Winnie’s home, was Christopher Robin, the son of author A.A. Milne, who would go on to write the classic children’s books you grew up with.
Winnie would pass away at the zoo 1934, but she would live on in children’s book and cartoons, and in the annals of science. Her skull, now on display for the first time, was used as data in a veterinary guide describing the diseases of animal teeth — all those years of eating honey with zoo visitors wasn’t kind to her dental work.
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick is available now, and you can learn more about the story behind the book in this gallery from The Guardian.
HT: Huffington Post