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Dogs

Military Animal

Anti-Tank Dog

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Military animals are creatures that have been employed by humankind for use in warfare. They are a specific application of working animals. Generally these animals are domesticated creatures, such as the dog or horse; more exotic animals such as the elephant, pig, and even the spider have also seen use during wartime. Animals have even been awarded medals for their courage in battle.

Transport and hauling

The horse has been the most widely-used animal throughout the recorded history of warfare. Early mounts could be used to pull the chariot or to carry lightly armored skirmishing forces. With the appearance of heavier mounts and the invention of the stirrup, the horse-mounted cavalry became the dominant military arm in Europe for several centuries. The combination of the horse-mounted warrior armed with a bow made the Mongol army the most powerful military force of its time.

With the appearance of modern ranged weapons and motorized vehicles, the use of the horse for military purposes fell into decline. However the horse was still used extensively by the German army during World War II for transporting supplies and equipment, including artillery. The U.S. Army also used pack horses during the war.

While elephants are not considered domesticable, they can be trained to serve as mounts, or for moving heavy loads. Sanskrit hymns record their use for military purposes as early as 1,100 B.C. A group of elephants was notably employed by Hannibal during the Punic Wars. They were employed as recently as World War II by both the Japanese and Allies. Elephants could perform the work of machines in locations where vehicles could not penetrate, so they found considerable use in the Burma theater. For more information on the military utilization of elephants, see war elephant.

Other

  • Camels have typically seen use as mounts in arid regions. They are better able to traverse sandy deserts than horses, and require far less water. Camels were employed in both world wars.
  • Mules were used by the U.S. Army during World War II to carry supplies and equipment over difficult terrain. These pack animals that are innately patient, cautious, and hardy; mules could carry heavy loads of supplies where Jeeps and even pack horses could not travel. Mules were used in North Africa, Burma, the Philippines, and in Italy.
  • During the Second World War, over 100,000 reindeer were used by Finland to tow sleds. They were employed during raids, for carrying wounded to hospitals, and for bringing supplies to the troops.
  • Oxen have occasionally been used in war as improvised beasts of burden.

Pigeons & War

Homing pigeons have seen use since the time of the French Revolution for carrying messages. They were employed for a similar purpose during the first world war. In WWII, experiments were performed in the use of the pigeon for guiding missiles, known as Project Pigeon. The pigeon was placed inside so that they could see out through a window. They were trained to peck at controls to the left or right, depending on the location of a target shape. See also: War pigeon.

Other specialized functions

Dogs were used by the ancient Greeks for war purposes, and they were undoubtedly used much earlier in history. During their conquest of Latin America, conquistadores used Mastiffs to kill Indian warriors in the Caribbean, Mexico and Peru. More recently, canines with explosives strapped to their backs saw use during World War II in the Soviet Army as anti-tank weapons. In other armies, they were used for detecting mines. They were trained to spot trip wires, as well as mines and other booby traps. They were also employed for sentry duty, and to spot snipers or hidden enemy forces. Some dogs also saw use as messengers.

Beginning in the Cold War era, research has been done into the uses of many species of marine mammals for military purposes. The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program uses dolphins and sea lions for underwater sentry duty, mine clearance, and object recovery. On land, the Gambian giant pouched rat has been used with considerable success in demining, as its keen sense of smell helps in the identification of explosives and its small size prevents it from triggering mines.

Pliny the Elder wrote about the use of pigs against elephants. As he relates it, elephants became scared by the squeal of a pig and would panic, bringing disaster to any soldiers who stood in their path of flight. [citation needed]

At the beginning of the War in Iraq, The Goverment of Congo proposed the idea of trained monkeys to clear minefields by running across them. [citation needed]

During the Second World War, spiders were employed by the Allies to spin silk for use in cross-hairs on bomb scopes and other optical instruments. [citation needed]

Also during the Second World War, the United States came up with the idea of a "bat bomb" using the Mexican Free-tailed Bat as a delivery system for incendiaries which the Americans would use to burn down the Japanese homes and districts. It was hoped that after dropping this bomb, that the bats would be released to fly into attics and other dark places in the Japanese cities. After a set period of time the incindaries would go off and burn down whatever buildings the bats had roosted in. They even went as far as to attach the incindiararies to the bats themselves before the program was halted because of the first atomic bomb test. They never saw operational service.

Additional reading

  • Jilly Cooper, Animals In War, The Lyons Press, 2002, ISBN 1585747297.

External links


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