World War I: Animals


Figure 1.--Here we see a French World War I postcard with a Boy Scout and Red Cross dog. It looks like it was maiked in 1915, but the post mark is indestinct. The French and Germans trained about 50,000 dogs, mostly for guard and sentry duty. The Germans would have a much larger dog training program in World War II. The caption read, "Honneur au chien hardi, fier et vaillant. Qui reconforte nos chers combattants." That means, " Honor to the brave, proud and valiant dog. Who comforts our dear warriors."

Animals played an important role in World War I. The most important was the horse. World War I was the first important European War since ancient times in which the calvalry did not play an important role. All the major combatant countries began the War with important calvalry forces, but found that changes in weaponry and aerial reconisance had rendered horse calvalry obsolete. Even so, the horse was still important as a draft animal. By all accounts, the horse was the most important animalduring the War. All of the combatant forces used draft animals to transport supplies and equipment as well as to move artillery. A British reader tells us that there is a monument in London dedicated to the donkey in war. Gradually trucks were introduced. The American Expeditionary Force brought a huge number of trucks with it. And the War would prove to be a dividing line between horse-draw carts and waggons and trucks. After the War, improved trucks rapidly replaced horses in America. The process was slower in Europe. Trucks were particularly useful behind the lines, but often could not negotiate the muddy and torn up terraine at the front. Dogs were also important in the War. The French and German armies in particular used dogs, mostly as sentries, scouts, anunition and equipment carries as well as to send messages. They also proved useful in killing rats in the trenches. The French and Germans trained about 50,000 dogs. When the Americans arrived in France, they did not have trained dogs. The British and Belgians loaned trained dogs to the Americans. Carrier pigeons were also important in carrying messages.

Horses and Mules

Animals played an important role in World War I. The most important were the horse and mule. World War I was the first important European War since ancient times in which the calvalry did not play an important role. All the major combatant countries began the War with important calvalry forces, but found that changes in weaponry and aerial reconisance had rendered horse calvalry obsolete. Even so, the horse was still important as a draft animal. By all accounts, the horse was the most important animal during the War. All of the combatant forces used draft animals to transport supplies and equipment as well as to move artillery. A British reader tells us that there is a monument in London dedicated to the donkey in war. Gradually trucks were introduced. The American Expeditionary Force brought a huge number of trucks with it. And the War would prove to be a dividing line between horse-draw carts and waggons and trucks. After the War, improved trucks rapidly replaced horses in America. The process was slower in Europe. Trucks were particularly useful behind the lines, but often could not negotiate the muddy and torn up terraine at the front.

Dogs

Dogs were also important in the War. The French and German armies in particular used dogs, mostly as sentries, scouts, anunition and equipment carries as well as to send messages. One report suggests that the digs proved as reliable as soldiers in running messages. The complexities of World War I trenches is often not fully understood by modern readwers. This created a range of communication problems. Modern field communication were developing, but still basically crude. Thus human messengers were still widely used. (Cpl. Adolf Hitler was one of those messengers and he reportedly kept a dog.) Human messengers had a number of advantages. They could react to a variety of obstacles and could ask others to convey the message if wounded. They could operate motor vehicles increasing speed. Motor cycles were especially important. There were also disadvantages. Human messengers were large that enemy gunners often targeted. Vehicles had the same disadvantages. An during an offensive, enemy artillery would obliterate the often primitive or muddy roads. Dogs were one of the sollutions to the communications problem. Dogs were faster than a human runner and less dependant on roads and could move through very difficult terraine. They also presented a much more dofficult target for enemy snipers. Some oif these dog messengers accomplished virtually impossible tasks. A British dog traimed in Scotland carried a vital message 4 kilometers to a brigade's headquarters over "very difficult" terrain in less than a hour. Other efforts to convey the message had failed. The dogs had other uses in the trenches. They proved useful in killing rats in the trenches that became the princle battleground on the Western Front. They also provided companionship for men away from their families for extended time. The French and Germans trained about 50,000 dogs. This was the klargestest number of dogs ever used in warfare, but was only a fraction of the number used in World War II. The British established a dog training school in Scotland. When the Americans arrived in France, they did not have trained dogs. The British and Belgians loaned trained dogs to the Americans. We are not yet sure what ogs after the War.

Pigeons

Carrier pigeons were also important in carrying messages.







CIH






Navigate the CIH World War I Pages:
[Return to Main World War I page]
[Aftermath] [Alliances] [Animals] [Armistace] [Biographies] [Causes] [Campaigns] [Casualties] [Children] [Countries] [Declaration of war] [Deciding factors] -------[Diplomacy] [Economics] -------[Geo-political crisis] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[Military forces] [Neutrality] [Pacifism] [People] [Peace treaties] [Propaganda] [POWs] [Russian Revolution] [Signals and intelligence] [Terrorism] [Trench warfare] ------[Technology] ------[Weaponry]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War I page]
[Return to Main war essay page]
[Return to CIH Home page]





Created: 8:22 AM 3/23/2011
Last updated: 1:59 AM 6/9/2011