The harvest mouse and the tale of Beatrix Potter

DEFRA recently issued a press release announcing that the harvest mouse had returned to Hampshire in the villages around Selbourne after it went extinct 25 years ago thanks to ‘an innovative new farming method’ which involved a group of individual farmers working together on a landscape scale. This is excellent news and has added poignancy as in 1767 the famous naturalist Gilbert White actually discovered the species for the first time in the Parish of Selbourne.

The press release has been picked up by many media outlets including one in China and this is perhaps due to the strap line of the press release “Iconic harvest mouse immortalised by Beatrix Potter returns to Hampshire village where it was first discovered“.

Harvest Mouse
By Reg Mckenna [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

This got me thinking – which Beatrix Potter character was a harvest mouse? I have looked at all her books again in search of the harvest mouse but to be honest I can’t find one. I’m happy to be corrected but the mice in the books are either house mice, wood mice or dormice.

The nearest fit superficially is Timmy Willie – ‘the little country mouse’ in the Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse.

Timmy Willie 1-2
This picture shows Timmy Willie (on the left) and Johnny Town Mouse (on the right) holding and eating some ears of wheat – a favourite food of harvest mice.

The fable is basically a satire of town and country life – Johnny Town-Mouse is different from Timmy Willie Country Mouse – in fact Potter has made the difference even greater by painting Timmy Willie as a field vole and not a mouse at all! He has a short tail which the mice are too polite to comment on.

Timmy Willie 2
Would be rather amusing if Timmy Willie was DEFRA’s harvest mouse!

If not who is?