The Real Bear Behind Winnie-the-Pooh

As unbelievable as it may sound, literature’s most famous talking bear is actually based off a real life bear. Back in 1914, 12 years before A.A. Milne published the first Winnie-the-Pooh book, veterinarian Harry Colebourn encountered a friendly baby bear in the woods and named her Winnie. Pictures have recently been uncovered of the duo’s extraordinary relationship, and they’re sure to get your day off to an adorable start. 

After Colebourn adopted Winnie, she never left his side. When he enlisted in World War I, Colebourn brought Winnie with him to the army camps. She became fast friends with the rest of the troops, but when it was time to ship off to the front lines, Colebourn realized the best thing to do would be to have his bear stay somewhere safe—the London Zoo. Winnie was just as friendly to zoo visitors, and the zookeepers allowed children to go into Winnie’s pen and spend time with her (keep in mind this was before the days of tight animal safety precautions). After the war was over, Colebourn realized Winnie was probably better off in her new home. 

It should be noted that main character Christopher Robin is also based off a real person—Milne’s son Christopher. When the Milne family visited the London Zoo, young Christopher had the opportunity to play with Winnie. This left such an impact on Christopher that he decided to change his teddy bear’s name from Edward to Winnie. And with that, A.A. had his title character. 


If you’d like to share the true story with your kid as a compliment piece to Winnie-the-Pooh, consider checking out Lindsay Mattick‘s picture book Finding Winnie

All images courtesy of