World War I in Photos: Animals at War - the Atlantic
This is part of an outstanding series on the First World War. The series includes many rarely seen or previously unpublished photographs, all of excellent quality.
World War I in Photos: Animals at War
Animals were used in World War I on a scale never before seen — and never again repeated. Horses by the millions were put in service as cavalry mounts and beasts of burden, but they were not the only animals active in the war. Mules, dogs, camels, and pigeons all played vital roles, as well as many others — all at great risk, and with heavy cost.
May 18, 2014
When the war began, Europe’s armies had an understanding of warfare that put the use of cavalry in high regard. Soon, however, the deadly terrain that evolved around trench warfare rendered cavalry attacks nearly useless on the Western Front. But the need for constant resupply, movement of new heavy weaponry, and the transport of troops demanded horse power on a massive scale — automobiles, tractors, and trucks were relatively new inventions and somewhat rare. British and French forces imported horses from colonies and allies around the world, a near-constant flow of hundreds of thousands of animals across the oceans, headed for war. One estimate places the number of horses killed during the four years of warfare at nearly 8 million. Other animals proved their usefulness as well: Dogs became messengers, sentries, rescuers, and small beasts of burden. Pigeons acted as messenger carriers, and even (experimentally) as aerial reconnaissance platforms. Mules and camels were drafted into use in various war theatres, and many soldiers brought along mascots to help boost morale. Only a couple of decades later, at the onset of World War II, most military tasks assigned to animals were done by machines, and warfare would never again rely so heavily on animal power. On this 100-year anniversary, I’ve gathered photographs of the Great War from dozens of collections, some digitized for the first time, to try to tell the story of the conflict, those caught up in it, and how much it affected the world. Today’s entry is part 4 of a 10-part series on World War I, which will be posted every Sunday until June 29. Come back next week for Part 5.
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