The bear which inspired Winnie the Pooh is actually a girl

By Amelia Butterly
Newsbeat reporter

image copyrightGetty Images

Winnie the Pooh is a boy.

He is referred to as "he" in AA Milne's books and in the Disney cartoons his voice has always been provided by a man.

But, it turns out that the real-life bear he is named after, was actually a female black bear named Winnie.

Christopher Robin, son of AA Milne and star of the books and cartoons, had called his teddy Winnie, having seen the actual bear a number of times in London Zoo.

Author Lindsay Mattick has told the story of the Canadian bear in her new book Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear. The film rights have already been sold.

Her great-grandfather, Harry Colebourn, rescued Winnie in 1914 and named her for his hometown of Winnipeg, Canada.

Colebourn was a vet and and travelled to England to help care for horses during the First World War.

He brought Winnie with him and she became a favourite with the troops.

image copyrightPA
image captionAA Milne including a character based on his son Christopher Robin in his books

When Colebourn was shipped over to France, he sent Winnie to stay at London Zoo. He always planned to bring her back to Canada, but when he saw how much children loved visiting her at the zoo, he donated her permanently.

"I'm still blown away that, while a lot of people in Canada certainly know the story and know the history now, around the world it's really still not known," Ms Mattick told Winnipeg Free Press.

"People don't even realize that there was a real bear.

"I want people who love Winnie the Pooh to understand that the real story behind her is just as beautiful and just as amazing."

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