Fans of the adorable golden bear with an insatiable appetite for honey are in for a dose of reality.
The skull of the bear which inspired children’s books “Winnie-the-Pooh,” has gone on public display for the first time — and it seems the animal’s legendary sweet tooth left its mark.
The original Canadian black bear, that died in 1934, is missing many of its teeth, apparently after decades of children feeding it honey while housed at London Zoo.
“She did suffer from quite severe gum disease that led to a lot of her teeth coming out,” said Sam Alberti, director of the Royal College of Surgeon’s Hunterian Museum, where the skull is now on show.
“And we think being fed sticky sweets by children for 20 years probably didn’t help.”
The skull is that of Winnipeg — called “Winnie” for short — a bear that boy Christopher Robin regularly visited at the zoo, and later named his teddy after.
The boy was none other than the son of author AA Milne, who used the bear as inspiration for his famous children’s books “Winnie-the-Pooh,” which were first published in the mid-1920s.
Canadian soldier, Captain Harry Colebourn, bought Winnipeg as a cub in 1914 and named her after his home town in Manitoba.
When Colebourn’s regiment was sent to England to train during the start of World War I, he bought the bear with him as a mascot.
But the group was soon deployed to fight in France, and the animal was left at its permanent home — London Zoo.
The particularly friendly bear was a hugely popular attraction, and her skull was kept by the Royal College of Surgeons.
After Winnie died, her skull was donated to dental surgeon James Frank Colyer, curator of the Odontological Museum, part of the Royal College of Surgeons collections.
He noted Winnie’s loss of teeth and put it down to old age and her eating habits. Colyer’s research became an invaluable part of his 1936 book on dental diseases of captive animals.
By Sheena McKenzie