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Big Teddy Bears and the Cantabrian Bear Species December 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bigstuffedanimals @ 12:28 pm

Who knows where big teddy bears would be had it not been for some felt animal pincushions that were designed in 1902 by Margarete Steiff. Following their popularity, Margarete went on to create the teddy bear. While his looks have a changed a little over the years, that original bear she designed, is still the iconic soft toy we know and love today. 

In past historical documents, the hibernation habits of  brown bears living in Spain had been questioned. As a result, between 1998 and 2007, Spanish scientists decided to to follow the brown bear population through the mountains of the Cantabrian Cordillera, so they could put to rest the ongoing debate.

According to The Libro la Monteria – circa 14th century – authored by King Alfonso XI, female brown bears with cubs born in the previous year, did not sleep in the winter. Or at least, not all brown bears did. Carlos Nores, lead author of this new study, which was conducted some 400 years after the writings of the 14th century document, said “during our monitoring of female bears with young, which we did in the east of the Cordillera Cantábrica on the basis of footprints and tracks, we saw that some animals stayed active throughout the whole winter.”

Monitoring of female brown bears for the study took place between December and March and the results showed that mother’s with cubs aged between 11 and 14 months, were active continuously, much like young, two year old bears are when they are beginning to break out on their own and show independence. However, when the entire family group was together, the tendency was to hibernate more. In the two bear populations, where seven family groups of bears were followed, Nores remarked that “they did not enter the physiological state of hibernation at any time.”

We know for a fact that big teddy bears don’t sleep. In fact, the only time they might get any rest at all is when their owner finally retires for the night. Big teddy bears are ‘on call’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week given they have a very large role to play; they need to be there to share triumph and disaster, comfort in times of sadness, and join in adventures great and small. No sleep for big teddy bears is a small price to pay really, when you consider just how important they are in a child’s life.


The Giant Stuffed Panda and Panda’s and Color December 3, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bigstuffedanimals @ 8:14 am

If you have ever been lucky enough to see a panda in person, then you know just how endearing they are, which in turn makes them one animal that is very tough to resist. The same is true of the giant stuffed panda – with its signature black and white coloring and large teddy bear looking face, you’ll find yourself bringing home more than just one.

In 2005, graduate researcher Angela Kelling, tested two Atlanta Zoo panda’s, Yang Yang and Lun Lun to see if they were able to distinguish between color and different shades of grey. Kelling said her “study shows that giant pandas have some sort of color vision. Most likely, their vision is dichromatic, since that seems to be the trend for carnivores.”

As far as bears go (including giant pandas) vision is not something that has been very well studied in the species. For a very long time it’s been thought that bears in general had poor vision, perhaps because of the fact that their senses of smell and hearing are so superiour. There have been some experts, however, who have thought that bears must have some color vision ability given it would help then in identifying which plants are edible and which are not. Unfortunately, there is little to no experimental evidence of this particular theory. There was one experiment done on black bears which found that they were in fact able to tell blue from grey and green from grey – Angela Kelling used the design of this study when she tested the color vision in the Atlanta Zoo pandas.

Over a period of two years, Kelling researched whether Lun Lun (female) and Yang Yang (male) could tell the difference between shades of grey and color. Using separate tests, each panda was shown PVC pipes, two of which hung underneath a piece of paper that contained one of the following colors: red, blue, and green. The second pipe contained 18 shades of grey. The pandas were rewarded if they pushed the pipe under the color and got nothing if they pushed the pipe under the grey paper.

Each of the colors used in the study were tested against the grey; when the pandas were tested in the green versus grey test, their performance was variable when it came to picking green, although it was above chance most of the time. In the red versus grey test, every single time, both bears were above chance. In the blue versus green test, it was only Lun Lun that was able to complete it as Yang Yang was suffering from a tooth issue which meant he was unable to eat the treats that were being used to reinforce the ‘correct’ behavior. Lun Lun performed below chance in this test just one time.

According to Angela Kelling, the testing wasn’t conclusive; the study did show that the pandas do in fact have some ability to see color but how much [color] they see, wasn’t determined. While there was no way to know if the pandas could actually tell the difference between the colors themselves – red from blue or blue from green – it was ‘proven’ that they could tell if something was grey or in color.

Wouldn’t it be something if a giant stuffed panda could see in color? Alas, not being able to see at all puts the kybosh on that notion. A giant stuffed panda, however, doesn’t have to be able to see for you to be able to enjoy what it has to offer: never ending companionship and constant devotion.


The Giant Stuffed Monkey and the Threat to the Monkey Population

Filed under: Uncategorized — bigstuffedanimals @ 8:09 am

The giant stuffed monkey is an all around terrific plush toy for a wide group of ages. For young children, it’s a fun first-time soft toy that can be played with and/or ‘substituted’ for a pillow and slept on, and for older children, it’s a great addition to a stuffed animal collection. The giant stuffed monkey, is, of course, a loyal companion and friend as well, no matter its owner’s age.

In threatened forests around the world in which monkeys make their home, it turns out that monkeys are much more sensitive to damaged habitat than what had previously been thought. Dr. Andrew Marshall, from the Environment Department at the University of York and Director of Conservation at Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo, along with several colleagues from other universities, conducted a study in 2010 of monkeys living in the Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania. Their findings suggested that external factors in forests, such as human activity, had a major impact on overall monkey populations living in forests as big 25 square miles. In addition, it was discovered that the monkeys’ health was also affected.

Per Dr. Marshall, “this study suggests that while small forest fragments need protecting we should intervene at an earlier stage to protect larger forest areas that are under threat.” Seven species of monkey that lived in an area covering some 6, 213 square miles, were part of the research. Dr. Marshall goes on to say that the end results were reason enough to help communities living in the area learn a different way of doing things so as to help with the forest species. Local communities could  make a point of planting the kind of habitat that would form a corridor between parts of forests that have become fragmented.

Floppy chimps, tall chimps, and/ or chimp families, are all types of giant stuffed monkeys that are available for you from which to choose. If gorillas are more your thing, be sure and go with a giant stuffed monkey that is a gorilla – there is a noticeable difference amongst the species. Whichever one you decide on, you can be sure that both it and you will be quite pleased that you did.


Stuffed Giant Toys and The Teddy Bear Industry in The U.S.

Filed under: Uncategorized — bigstuffedanimals @ 8:03 am

In the world of soft toys, there is so much to choose from that it can make deciding on which one to pick, a daunting task. That problem should be easily solved when you look to stuffed giant toys as your choice. With these larger than life animals, stuffed giant toys make the pleasure of owning them all the more enjoyable.

The United States was booming in the early 1920s; new businesses popped up every day in a place where both enterprise and innovation were strongly encouraged. Loads of immigrants came to what was deemed the Land of Opportunity. In October 1929, all of this came tumbling down when Wall Street crashed after millions of dollars were wiped off the stockmarket. Businesses and banks failed and what followed was the Great Depression in which 13.7 million people were unemployed.

Many of the U.S. soft toy manufacturers didn’t survive this period and while they were able to benefit from the embargo on imported German toys that was in place during World War I, the market practically dried up given buying teddy bears and other luxury items were considered not as important. Lots of toymakers went out of business, novelty lines of teddy’s disappeared, and cheaper, poor-quality bears became favored by buyers and manufacturers. In 1933, things began to turn around when following the new reforms (called the New Deal) put in place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, new companies and new designs emerged.

In 1923, Benjamin Mitchom joined his father’s company in New York – the Ideal Novelty Co. In 1928, when his father died, Benjamin took over the company and turned it into one of the world’s leading toy manufacturers. During the 1920s and 1930s, Ideal teddy bears didn’t change very much; during the years of war, the bears were a little thinner as materials were at a premium at that time. A range of small jointed bears were produced in the 1940s which were stuffed with kapok (a soft natural fiber). They had noses that were molded out of resin and actually foreshadowed the machine washable bears that were to come in the 1950s.

Knicherbockers was another U.S. company that was in competition on toy shelves with Ideal. The Knickerbocker Toy Co. was founded in 1850 in Albany, New York State and produced educational toys like wooden alphabet blocks. In the 1920s, they turned to making soft toys. Some of their early bears had triangular-shaped heads that had large, round ears, and flat muzzles. Their bodies were usually thinner than those of European teddy’s that were being made during the same time and there were no humps on their backs.

The Commonwealth Toy & Novelty Co. (which is still in operation today), did everything they could think of so they could outlast the Depression. Established in 1934 by a Mr. Greenfield, it focused on the novelty bear market. In 1937, it launched the ‘Feed Me Bear’ line which was one of their most successful. While not the best looking teddy, children fell in love with him because they could put things in his mouth. When they pulled a string at the back of his head, his mouth would open; food could be fed into his mouth and removed at an opening at the back. This line of bears was used to promote animal crackers by The National Biscuit Co. and they were often put on display in grocery stores all over the United States.

Since teddy bears are as much loved today as when they were first created in Germany in 1902, it seems conceivable that when choosing stuffed giant toys, going for teddy’s would be a wise decision. While there are lots of other types of stuffed giant toys from which to choose, they don’t always seem to conjure up the same things a teddy does: companions that can share in every disaster and every triumph, comfort when times are tough, and finally, share in every great or small adventure.


Large Teddy Bears and British Teddy Manufacturers

Filed under: Uncategorized — bigstuffedanimals @ 7:58 am

Large teddy bears are a staple of every child’s bedroom and/or playroom. Because of their popularity and ability to transport you right back to when you were young, you may find them in a few adult bedrooms as well. It’s hard to imagine what a childhood would be like without large teddy bears, and let’s hope we never have to find out.

The Harwin & Co. Ltd. were a British producer of top quality teddy bears. It was founded by G.W. Harwin in 1914 in response to the import ban on German goods after the declaration of World War I.

Harwin’s early productions focused mainly on felt dolls which is why its most famous (and memorable) bears were dressed in the finest felt clothes; they were designed by the founder’s daughter Dorothy. Ally Bears – as they were called – wore the uniforms of World War I soldiers and sailors in the Allied forces, along with those of the Red Cross nurses. While Ally Bears were very successful at the time, today they are extremely rare. While there is little explanation as to why, it could be because they went with so many of their owners to the Front and like their owners, never came back.

Harwin and Co. also produced the Scottish bear which was dressed in full Highland regalia; it was part of the Eyes Right range of bears which were so named because of their googly eyes.

Another British manufacturer of the teddy bear was Dean’s Rag Book Co. Ltd. which was founded by Henry Samuel Dean in 1903. The company specialized in rag books for children which were indestructible. In 1908, the company went on to create printed cloth teddy bears which were part of its Knockabout Toy series. The bear was cotton and had to be cut out and put together at home. A teddy bear rag book was also issued in the same year. In 1912, the company moved from Fleet Street in London to southeast London and three years after that they produced their first plush mohair teddy bear. The bear had pointed ears and long jointed limbs and was launched under the Kuddlemee brand name.

In 1915, The Chad Valley Co. Ltd. introduced a line of teddy bears. The company had started out as a bookbinder and printer 95 years earlier and was founded in Birmingham by Anthony Bunn Johnson. By 1889, Johnson, along with his three sons who had all joined the business, moved to a new factory located in a village that was close by called Harborne. It was here that the Chad Valley trademark was born thanks to the stream that ran through Harborne. By 1900, the company’s product range expanded and included cardboard games. They began to increase their production on toys which was helped along by the ban of German imports during World War 1. This ban prompted the introduction of soft toys with the fist teddy bears appearing on the scene in 1915.

Some of  The Chad Valley bears were initially filled with cork chipping but they solved that problem when in 1916, the company patented a stuffing machine for toys. During the war years Chad Valley continued to make teddy bears and by 1920, they had opened a separate location for soft toys in Wellington, Shropshire.

Large teddy bears owe a huge debt of gratitude to the original creator of the teddy, Margarete Steiff, along with many of the other company’s that followed in her footsteps. Without them, who knows where large teddy bears would be today.


Large Plush Toys and the Most Famous of all Teddy Bear’s

Filed under: Uncategorized — bigstuffedanimals @ 7:53 am

Very few of us can say that at one time or another, we didn’t have a favorite soft toy; whether it was a teddy bear or a frog, it was a treasured companion. Large plush toys (and even the smaller versions) really are staples of childhood – without them, growing up just wouldn’t be quite the same.

Besides the Steiff company, which was responsible for the creation of the first teddy bear, there were others that followed in their footsteps that also produced top quality soft toys. One such company, was London based manufacturer, J.K. Farnell. This was a family business founded in 1840 by John Kirby Farnell. While the company started out as a silk merchant producing small silk goods like pincushions, their fine needlework skills that were required to make such items, would serve them very well in the future.

When John Farnell died in 1897, Henry and Agnes Farnell, Farnell’s son and daughter, moved the company to a leased property in west London, called The Elms. It was at this new location where their first soft toys and teddy bears were made. After initially using unusual materials to create their bears – like rabbit fur – they eventually turned to much higher quality mohair plush and produced top notch teddy’s.

Following World War I, many British, and even those abroad, were not comfortable buying German goods. As a result, the British teddy bear industry took off. By 1921, J.K. Farnell had outgrown its location – The Elms – so they built a new factory next door. This addition was called the Alpha Works and was managed by Agnes Farnell. With the amount of orders that were flooding in, staff numbers were increased to meet the demand. 

With the imaginative designs of Sybil Kemp, J.K. Farnell kept producing first rate soft toys; Alpha Bears were among these. This was a range of teddy bears that strongly resembled the classic teddy bear of 1905 which Richard Steiff had designed. In the early 1920s, when Alpha Bears were first launched, they had golden or silver/white mohair plush, long arms, well-built thighs, big oval feet, thick ankles, and vertically stitched oblong noses.

In 1921, the world’s most famous Alpha Bear was purchased from Harrods in London by A.A. Milne – the author and creator of Winnie the Pooh. Milne bought the bear as a present for his son Christopher Robin’s first birthday. When We Were Very Young, a book of children’s poems, published by Milne in 1924 and illustrated by E.H. Shepard, included the poem ‘Teddy Bear;’ it described a little bear with a weight problem and this was the first unofficial appearance of Pooh. He was launched properly in 1925, in a story written for the Christmas Eve issue of the Evening News. The story went on to launch the first chapter of Winnie the Pooh (1926) which was a collection of short stories about Christopher Robin and his nursery toys. The original Farnell teddy, which Christopher Robin always referred to as Edward Bear, can now be found in the New York Public Library along with all his soft toys companions, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Roo, and Tigger.

Even Winnie the Pooh has been produced as a large plush toy, as have many of his friends. However, in order to enjoy large plush toys, it doesn’t necessarily have to be with Pooh given there are so many others to choose from.


Large Plush Stuffed Animals and Birth of the British Bear

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