Animals in Uniform

For centuries, animals have been used to help fight wars. Before there were tanks, soldiers rode their horses into battle. Pack animals such as camels, mules, and horses carried ammunition and supplies. Many other animals have been called upon to do their duty. Here's a salute to animals in war.

Elephants

  • Battle elephants were used by Hannibal of Carthage when he crossed the Alps to fight the Romans. Elephants with carriages on their backs were able to hold four soldiers. Hannibal's elephant, Surus, was said to be extremely brave.
  • Alexander the Great conquered India with the help of elephants.
  • The Greek king Pyrrhus and his men rode elephants into battle against the Romans. Although the Greeks won, many men and elephants died. Today “Pyrrhic victory” means a victory won at great cost.
  • In the sixteenth century, Emperor Akbar of India used elephants in battle. The elephants were hung with bells in order to sound frightening, and their trunks were bound to straighten them so that poisoned daggers could be attached to their ends.

Dogs

  • The ancient Romans and Gauls used dogs trained to fight in battle.
  • In the fifteenth century, the Spanish used dog warriors. The dogs wore quilted overcoats into battle.
  • Christopher Columbus used dogs to fight Native Americans.

Cats, Canaries, and Mice

These animals didn't fight, but they were very useful in World Wars I and II.

  • Cats lived with soldiers in trenches, where they killed mice during World War I.
  • Canaries and mice were used during World War II, when soldiers sent them into the tunnels being dug behind enemy lines to detect bad air and poison gas.

Pigeons

  • During World War I, before radiotelephones were used, carrier pigeons took messages between ships at sea.
  • In nineteenth-century Europe, messenger pigeons were sent out two at a time because falcons were trained to attack them, thereby intercepting the message.

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