World Stamps

By Denise McCarty

Britain shows animals’ hibernation in winter on new postage labels

November 21, 2016 09:00 AM

  • Great Britain’s Royal Mail issued four post & go labels Nov. 14 showing a dormouse, brown long-eared bat, hedgehog, and grass snake in their winter hibernation habitats. Chris Wormell created the illustrations of the animals, and Osborne Ross designed the self-adhesive postage labels.

By Denise McCarty

Hibernating animals are pictured on four self-adhesive postage labels issued Nov. 14 by Great Britain’s Royal Mail.

Royal Mail calls such labels “post & go.” The denominations or service inscriptions are printed at the time of purchase. 

In the illustrations supplied by Royal Mail, the labels are inscribed for first-class and second-class standard and large mail weighing up to 100 grams.

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Three hibernating mammals are shown: the dormouse, brown long-eared bat, and hedgehog. The fourth design depicts a grass snake.

A small nocturnal rodent with a fluffy tail, the hazel or common dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is known for being sleepy.

In its announcement of the new post & go labels, Royal Mail said: “Dormice can spend over half the year in hibernation. Indeed, their name might come from this trait, from the Latin word for sleep, dormire. They bed down in carefully constructed nests, woven from strands of honeysuckle bark and dried grass, for instance, well hidden in their woodland habitat.”

According to the Bat Conservation Trust, the United Kingdom has 18 species of bats, all but one which also breed there. 

As for the brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), the trust said on its website, “This bat’s huge ears provide exceptionally sensitive hearing — it can even hear a ladybird walking on a leaf!”

In the winter, the brown long-eared bat hibernates in caves, tunnels, mines, icehouses, and sometimes trees and buildings, according to the trust.

The hibernation of the west European hedgehog, (Erinaceus europaeus) is described on the website of Hedgehog Street, “a campaign aimed at ensuring the hedgehog, the UK’s only spiny mammal, remains a common and familiar part of British life.” 

According to HedgehogStreet.org, “Hedgehogs are one of the few mammals that are true hibernators. During hibernation hedgehogs are not really asleep, instead they drop their body temperature to match their surroundings and enter a state of torpor. This allows them to save a lot of energy but slows down all other bodily functions making normal activity impossible.”

However, during their period of hibernation, which can be as long as October to April depending on the severity of the winter, hedgehogs will change nesting sites at least once.


Royal Mail ladybug postage labelLadybugs and beetles dress up postage labels: Great Britain and Jersey introduced new post & go labels during the first day of the autumn Stampex show in London.


The United Kingdom’s largest snake, the grass snake (Natrix natrix) can grow up to 3 feet in length. This snake can be found in a wide variety of wetland habitats and also in gardens. Like the hedgehog, the grass snake hibernates between October and April. 

Osborne Ross designed the labels using illustrations by Chris Wormell, a wood engraver and illustrator and author of children’s books.

International Security Printers printed the labels by gravure. They measure 56 millimeters by 25mm.

The postage labels are available from terminals in post office branches throughout the United Kingdom. The terminals allow customers to weigh their letters and packages, pay the postage, and print the appropriate label. 

Royal Mail also is offering a first-day cover franked with the four Hibernating Animals post & go labels.

For additional information, contact Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21 S. Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh EH12 9PB, Scotland; visit the Royal Mail online store, or its page dedicated to post & go labels.