Winnie the Bear: the Bear Behind the Books.


This is one of the stories about London that I love.

Years ago, back in 1914, a young Canadian had joined the military and was on his way to join the Veterinary Corps. His name was Lt Harry Colebourn, and he is said to have been a kind hearted man. On his way through Ontario, he came across a man with a poor bear cub whose mother had been killed.


He took the odd step of buying the creature from the man for $20, who had dubbed her Winnipeg, after the state he originated from. Colebourn took the bear with him, nicknaming her Winnie, and she soon became the mascot of his regiment.

She was said to be very gentle and friendly, being completely accustomed to people.

When Colebourne passed through London on service, he left her in the care of London Zoo, as he had to travel through France, and couldn’t take her with him. She became incredibly popular there, especially with children, and though he had planned to take her back with him to Canada, he felt that she was happiest where she was in London.


One of her biggest fans was a little boy called Christopher Robin, who chose to name his beloved teddy bear after her because she was so tame and sweet. This bear was immortalised by the child’s father, A A Milne, in his books about his son and his bear, Winnie-The-Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood where he lived.


The statue at the top of this post is in London Zoo, on the site where Winnie lived til her death in 1934. It’s a beautiful reminder of the bear behind the bear. She has also been immortalised in films and books about her life with Lt Harry Colebourn.

London Zoo is a great place to visit, and all Summer they have events in the evenings too, with their Sunset Safari program, which has limited tickets, but is a great time to see a lot of the animals, since many of them are more active at night. London Zoo supports breeding programs for the preservation of endangered species, and the animals housed there are all properly cared for. For more details HERE.

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