Everyone has, of course, heard of Winnie the Pooh, seen the books, the movies, and hear rumors about the origins of the little bear.
Winnie the Pooh was originally a young female black bear named Winnipeg that was adopted by a member of the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade, and later became the Brigade’s mascot.
She travelled with them to Britain, and eventually came to live at the London Zoo, where a young boy named Christopher Robin adored her and inspired the stories that are so well known today.
Enough about children’s stories though, what about military mascots? Regimental mascots are adopted, often by British military regiments to symbolically represent the regiment and their history. In Canada, a bear mascot seems very suiting, but we also had dogs, a coyote, and even a beaver as well.
The associations between all of these animals and Canada are strong, but it’s nearly impossible to walk into a tourist shop in Canada without finding yourself surrounded by images of the Black Bear. Winnipeg, was a Canadian bear mascot, and surely the only famous one, but there were others as well.
At the Historical Museum, if you take a hard look around, it’s easy to find evidence of at least two other Bear mascots! One black bear that we have several images of is an adult bear (unlike Winnie who was a cub) who was the mascot for the 243rd Battalion C. E. F., which actually trained and recruited right here in P.A.
This bear was so classy, that we even have an image of him with a Colonel and officers in 1915. The second bear, is a little harder to find, but is held in the arms of a Nursing Sister, in an old WWI photograph, the caption to which reads “Nursing Sister presented with bear cub mascot by some of the boys.”
Bears aren’t just big and strong, cute and cuddly, or just a touristy symbol of Canada though, they are also a symbol that is truly representative of our country and the nature that still thrives within it. By WWI when these bears were representing us, Western Europe had almost no remaining bear populations.
This should remind us that bears are animals we’re fortunate to have here in Canada, a fact that is perhaps still symbolized by today’s official Canadian Army mascot, a bear named Juno.
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