Fans of the Hundred-Acre Wood rejoice! The skull of the bear that inspired A.A. Milne’s classic “Winnie the Pooh” stories is now on public display at the Royal College of Surgeon’s Hunterian Museum in London.
The skull belonged to Winnipeg, “Winnie” for short, a female black bear who lived at the London Zoo. Lieutenant Harry Colebourn of the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps purchased Winnie when she was a cub from a hunter in Canada prior to World War I. He then brought the cub overseas with him to England, where she became the unofficial mascot of his regiment.
When Colebourn had to travel to France in 1914, he left Winnie in the care of the London Zoo. The zoo is where a little boy named Christopher Robin, author A.A. Milne’s son, met Winnie and became enamored with the silly old bear. He named his toy bear after Winnie and the rest is history.
Winnie died of old age in 1934. Her skull has been in the possession of the museum ever since, but this is the first time it will be on public display.
Museum staff saw the skull “with fresh eyes” when they recently reviewed some of the items in their collection. The skull’s unveiling also comes shortly after the publication of Finding Winnie, a children’s book about the true story behind Winnie the Pooh. The author, Lindsay Mattock, is also Colebourn’s great-granddaughter.