Biology Settles the Winnie-the-Pooh vs. Paddington Bear Beef
On Tuesday, Disney released the teaser trailer for Christopher Robin, in which the titular character is revisited by his famous bear, Winnie-the-Pooh. The trailer initiated an unexpectedly vicious battle for CGI bear supremacy, as fans of both Pooh and Paddington Bear, who’s also seen recent screen time, raised a very loaded question: Is there room in the movies for two anthropomorphic bears? Were the bears left to their natural devices, ursine biology suggests the fight would be very close.
On Twitter, some fans proposed a UFC-style fight between the Marmalade Monster and the Honey Hercules. Here at Inverse, we don’t shy away from a fight, no matter how fictitious. Therefore, we ask, who would win?
Let’s start with the facts. Paddington, despite living in England, is an Andean spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), native to the mountains of Peru. Winnie-the-Pooh is a different story, as he is famously a toy plush bear invented by A.A. Milne. But Milne named him after a real bear named Winnie who accompanied Canadian soldiers to England during World War I as a morale-booster. Winnie was a female black bear (Ursus americanus), so for our purposes, we’ll consider Pooh a black bear.
Now for the big question: Which bear would kick the other bear’s ass? Both species are omnivorous, eating mostly fruits and plant material, deriving only a small portion of their diet from animals they kill. Andean spectacled bears occasionally eat rodents and birds but have also been known to kill small cows. Similarly, black bears sometimes kill salmon, baby deer, and baby moose. So as far as ferocity, both bears are pretty evenly matched. But when it comes to weight, an advantage may emerge.
Andean spectacled bears are fairly small, weighing up to 340 pounds. Male black bears can be much bigger, maxing out around 600 pounds in the wild (though rare specimens as heavy as 1,000 pounds have been reported), whereas female black bears are a lot smaller. Even though the real Winnie was female, the character Winnie-the-Pooh presents as masculine, and since captive bears can often far exceed the size of wild bears (depending on the availability of food), he’s probably near the top of that weight range.
That being said, anyone who’s watched him try to fit his chubby tummy through a hole in a tree to forage for honey knows he’s also a little overweight, suggesting that his size advantage may be offset by a speed disadvantage. With that in mind, it’s probably a wash, physically speaking.
Since the IRL versions of Paddington and Pooh are pretty evenly matched when it comes to size and ferocity, we really may have to resort to cuteness to decide the victor. In this sense, a clear winner emerges. Psychology research has suggested that adults and children prefer animals that look more like babies — those with big eyes, round faces, big heads, and recessed chins. Both of the bears have the last three features, but Paddington’s eyes blow Pooh’s out of the water when it comes to the lifelike cuteness that makes him look like an infant. So in terms of cuteness, Paddington is the clear winner.
Of course, animals can’t consent to a prizefight, and to force them into it would be cruel. Plus, even though the black bear’s wild populations are healthy, the Andean spectacled bear is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, just one step above “endangered.” Forcing Winnie-the-Pooh into a fight with Paddington, then, would very likely tickle the internet, but ultimately there would be no winners — only losers.