The world’s most famous bear turned 100 last year, but did you know how he got his name and inspired the creation of Winnie the Pooh?
The story starts with the First World War and Canadian troops being posted to Europe. Lt Harry Colebourn, cavalry veterinarian with the Canadian Cavalry regiment from Fort Garry rescued the orphaned black bear cub, whilst enroute via train through central Canada before being deployed overseas. Named after the regiment’s home city of Winnipeg, the cub Winnie enjoyed the company of humans and became a mascot for the troops.
When Lt Colebourn was posted to the front in France he needed to find Winnie a safe home and this would be at London Zoo, where the black bear became loved by the British public and was a star attraction.
When Colebourn returned to London he decided Winnie should stay where she was happy rather than being shipped to the Assiniboine Park Zoo, Winnipeg, as was his original plan.
During the 1920’s a little boy named Christopher Robin was enthralled by Winnie and even renamed his teddy bear to Winnie. AA Milne, his father, saw the effect the bear had on his son and from that created a fantasy world involving his son and a toy bear named Winnie the Pooh on many adventures.
Today at Assiniboine Park in the Pavilion in the capital city of Winnipeg, visitors will find the Pooh Gallery, and learn more about the true story of the Winnipeg soldier going to war in Europe and how AA Milne was inspired to write about the bear.
The exhibition showcases photographs, artifacts and diaries giving insight to Harry Colebourn’s story as he writes about his experiences of war and the purchase of the bear he named Winnie. The main feature of the gallery is an original oil painting of Winnie the Pooh by E.H. Shepard, the illustrator who worked with author AA Milne to bring the fictional bear to life.
In the grounds of the park is a statue of Winnie with Harry Colebourn, one of the many works of art in this tranquil open space in the heart of Winnipeg.
The Assiniboine Park and Conservancy, with winding trails and wide open green spaces is open year round with seasonal events and activities encouraging visitors. Summer season has music events and movie nights whilst in winter it is toboggans and cross country skiing.
Beyond the flora and fauna there are public art galleries, live theatre, ballet in the park and breath-taking gardens, bike rentals and fitness trail.
Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park has been going through phases of major renovations and developments including the Journey to Churchill Arctic species zoo exhibit that opened in 2014 and the upcoming Canada’s Diversity Gardens.