Real bear behind Winnie the Pooh is a girl, and more things you may not know about beloved character

Posted at 12:02 PM, Jan 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-18 13:02:16-05

January 18 is Winnie the Pooh Day, in honor of the birthday of author AA Milne. The affable bear has been the hero of countless children's tales about him over the decades.

But many may not realize that the real-life bear behind Winnie the Pooh was actually a she. Here are fun facts you may not know about the beloved character.

The original Winnie was female

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear details the rich history of the female black bear cub named Winnie who would become the inspiration for the classic children's character. During World War I, Winnie was purchased by Canadian veterinarian Harry Coleburn, who named the cub after his home city of Winnipeg. Winnie became a regiment mascot during Coleburn's months of battlefield training. But when he was deployed to France, Coleburn realized he could no longer keep Winnie safe, and brought her to the London Zoo who looked after the cub for the rest of the war, according to WBUR.

It was at the London Zoo when author A.A. Milne came across Winnie with his son Christopher Robin Milne (whose name would also be used in the children's books.) Christopher was enamored by the cub and named his own teddy bear after her. The two would become the inspiration for the characters of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin in Milne's iconic series.

The second half of the name comes from a swan

Young Christopher Robin named a swan "Pooh," A.A. Milne explained in his 1924 book When We Were Very Young.

"This is a very fine name for a swan, because, if you call him and he doesn't come (which is a thing swans are good at), then you can pretend that you were just saying 'Pooh!' to show how little you wanted him," Milne wrote before the book.

The real-life Pooh would lend his name to a swan in that book and later to Winnie the Pooh.

Pooh was first published in a newspaper

The first appearance of the character of Winnie the Pooh was on Dec. 24, 1925, according to the BBC. A story called "The Wrong Sort of Bees" appeared in the London Evening News.

You can visit (the stuffed bear) Winnie

For Winnie the Pooh super fans, it might be worth a trip to the main branch of the New York Public Library. Here you can see the toys that Christopher Robin played with that inspired Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet and Kanga. They are occasionally given professional conservation treatment.

The real Christopher Robin opened a bookshop

It may come as no surprise that Christopher Milne grew up to be a book lover himself. In 1951, he moved from London to southwest England to set up Harbour Bookshop, according to the BBC. He retired in 1983, and the shop closed in 2011.