Winnie Was A Real Bear: A. A. Milne's Inspirations

By | January 14, 2020

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Winnipeg the bear with Lt. Harry Colebourn. (

Winnie the Pooh is one of the most beloved children’s literary characters in history. Along with his pals Piglet, Tigger, Owl, Eeyore, and Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh has been featured in books, movies, and television shows to the delight of children across the world. You may think that the tubby, honey-loving bear was the product of the imagination of British author and playwright Alan Alexander Milne, better known as A.A. Milne, but you would only be partially right. Milne, who was born on this day in 1882, based his best-known character on a real bear with a long, interesting, and tragic past.

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Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne's son, Christopher Robin, sitting at home with his teddy bear. (Getty Images)

Ontario, 1914

In August 1914, a British-born Canadian soldier named Lieutenant Harry Colebourn caught sight of something that would change his life. At a train station in White River, Ontario stood a trapper with a small bear cub on a leash. The trapper explained that he had killed its mother but didn't have the heart to kill the baby or leave it to die alone in the wilderness, so he brought the cub with him to the train station hoping to find someone willing to buy the bear. Colebourn was just that person.