Role of Animals in World War 1

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Animals have always proven themselves to be loyal and men’s best help during war ground or peace treaties. Unfortunately, as the years are passing by the usage of animals have been reduced in many jobs and areas where they were used the most, they haven’t completely been wiped out but their number have surely been reduced. According to the records recorded world war 1 took place between July 28th 1914-November till 11th 1918.

Many people still believe that during the war only small number of animals were used, including: dogs, pigeons and horses, but in reality, there were more than a 16 million different species of animals that participated and served in the war with different unbelievable capabilities and responsibilities, beginning with Dolphins, glow worms, chickens, cats, pigeons, monkeys and camels. However, animals remained a decisive part of the war effort. Camels, donkeys, horses and mules were used in carrying food, water, ammunition and medical supplies to soldiers at the front, and messengers were dogs and pigeons who transported the news to wherever they were asked. Poisonous gases were detected by the canaries, cats and dogs were used to maintain the right hygiene for the soldiers in trenches by hunting the unwanted living creatures such as rats. Animals were not only work. Dogs, cats, and many other unnoticed animals, counting the monkeys, bears and lions, they were kept as pets and mascots to raise the spirit and provide comfort among the hardworking forces of the war.


Dogs are known as men’s best friend for the past centuries. They have been serving human kind in every possible way that they are capable of. It is noted that by 1918, Germany had 30,000 working dogs, Britain, France and Belgian all together over 20,000 and Italy itself had 3000 employed dogs. Americans at first, did not take dogs seriously and only used them to utilize a few hundred from the Allies for specific missions. Later, after a chance stowaway, the USA produced the most standard and highly-ranked dog services in the history of militaries, Sergeant Stubby. They were the most important part of WWI. In fact, they have made the humans to believe they are just as dependable as soldiers. Their jobs were diverse in the battles - roles included: sniffing out enemies, carrying supplies, finding the wounded, delivering messages and companionship. (top 3 roles are elaborated below.)

Messenger dogs:

Dogs were used as messengers and were as reliable as soldiers in the dangerous tasks of running messages across the battle field. The complicated quality of trench warfare meant that communication was always a problem for the messengers. Field communication systems were disastrous and there was always a very high possibility that necessary messages from the front would never return to the headquarters or even vice versa. Humankind runners were the main targets and were weighed down by the other side, there was a real chance that they would not get through to the wanted destination. In the heat of a battle, the chances that a runner getting through as the enemy’s artillery were enormously reduced. Vehicles were also problematic, as they could easily breakdown when needed the most or the ‘roads’ could have been reduced to a mushy surface and travelling on them made was impossible. So, dogs were introduced, since they were the obvious solution to this problem.

Without any doubts a trained dog was way faster than an actual human runner, dogs were less of a target to a sniper and could travel over any path. Above all, humans could extremely count on dogs if they were well trained. A dog training institution was made official in Scotland the very first time. A famous recruit from this school traveled over 4000m on the Western Front with an extremely important message to a brigade’s headquarters. This dog traveled this distance in less than sixty minutes. All other methods of communicating with the headquarters had been a failure – but the dog had got through the impossible task

Casualty dogs:

Casualty or ‘Mercy’ dogs were popular in the War that took place. Basically, the were ordered to be trained in the late 1800’s by the German’s men, they were later sent across Europe. In Germany, these dogs were trained to find the wounded and dying soldiers on battlefields and the equipped dogs with medical supplies to assist those suffering and get help for them if needed. Those soldiers who were able to help themselves and would wrap up their own wounds, whilst other more gravely wounded soldiers would seek the help of a Mercy dog to wait with them whilst they died or any help arrived.

Scout dogs:

These dogs were highly trained and had a quiet, disciplined nature. Their task was to work with foot soldiers and assist them in identifying the path ahead of them. These dogs were useful to the troops because they could detect enemy coming their way from approximately 900 meters away, faster than any man could. Instead of barking and grabbing everyone’s attention, the dogs would rigid its neck and point its tail, which meant that the opposite side was approaching them upon the specific path. Scout dogs were extravagantly useful due to their efficiency in ignoring any detection of the team.


At the beginning of World War 1 horses were mainly used for troops that served on horseback. On the Western Front, cavalry forces weren’t used for long period of time but they were used for longer and had more support on the Eastern Front. Horses were more commonly used for to generally detail the organization and implementation of a complex operation- they were able to move well through mud and rough ground to carry messages, they were strong animals and were able pull supply wagons, and move medical crew and the wounded and soldiers. As the war was going on, horses were difficult to replace, their value outmatched a men. The horses used in war were living in a very harsh and unbelievable situation. Many of the horses passed away due to starvation, illnesses, lack of energy and many others died as they were killed harshly during the war. Whether pulling two-wheeled carriages, transporting weapons or carrying people to battle, the horses has been in more action than any other animal; in fact, they have been the very first animals to be instructed. By the outbreak of World War I, meant that conditions on the front were mostly more dangerous for horses than for human soldiers. In just a single day during the 1916 Battle of Verdun in France, 7,000 horses were killed. Over six million horses participated in World War I, more than any other animal in history. The British Army alone used 1,183,228 horses. (one cavalry role is described below…)

Cavalry and fighting animals:

Aside from the machine gun, sharp wires and trenches, troops on horseback proved to be remarkably effective during the war. Cavalry took considerable actions at Mons, and Russian cavalry pass deeply into Germany during the early time of the war. Cavalry were still sometimes used in their traditional even later in the war. Britain forces were trained to fight both on foot and horses and were ready for use, they were usually used by these troops than by other European forces during the battle.


Mules and donkeys were way slower than horses but they were able to carry far more heavier goods and were easier to control. So, that made the mules and donkeys very popular among Allied forces. Their only downside was that they were quite noisy and they easily revealed troop positions to the enemy and they could be spotted fast. To solve this problem with the help of different kind of surgeries they had removed the vocals of such animals that could cause them any sort of problems. They were mostly only used to move goods from place to place and transfer whatever it was needed at the fronts.


During World war 1, it is reported that 500,000 cats were used in the trenches, and many served on Navy ships. They helped in hunting rats and other fauna that spread illness, and also detected different poisonous gases.

As one incredible story was written, a cat named Pitouchi was born in the trenches next to the soldiers. His mother passed away when he was a small kitten. A Belgian soldier, Lieutenant Lekeux, took Pitouchi home. As it was mentioned in the book of Soldiers in Fur and Feathers written by Susan Bulanda, about Pitouchi and how he saved Lekeux's life,

"As Lekeux reached a safe spot near the German camps, he observed that they were hoeing a new trench. He shielded himself in a shell hole he spotted nearby and found the area safe to make some sketches of the Germans troops. He was extremely lost in his sketch that he did not realize that the German soldiers were getting closer to him. When he finally looked up he was out of time to run away. He planned to stay motionless, thinking that the Germans will not notice him, but unfortunately he was wrong and heard one soldier say, "He's in the hole right over there," so he knew his life could end any second. When Pitouchi heard, the German say that, without any delay jumped right out in front of the soldiers. The Germans were shocked and stood still and shot Pitouchi twice. luckily, Pitouchi was not hurt, even though he was really terrified, and he jumped back inside to his master. The Germans left and made fun of their previously said words that they had taken a cat as a human being. Lekeux successfully finished his masterpiece and began his journey back to the Belgian ground with Pitouchi around his shoulders."


World War I was one greatest battles during the industrial procedure. From the old times the use of airplanes followed by the usages of tanks to railways, guns on the battle grounds were introduced, soldiers had to cooperate not only with one another but also learn new techniques on how to start the newly introduced tools from the factory sides. Back in world war 1 era, telephones were the most commonly used tool for communication from the commander to the soldiers or vice versa in any kind of conditions.

Of course, in the time when war was at its peak and number of casualties were increasing by seconds, communication was the only solid solution. Unluckily, technology such as our very own home telephones or the old telegraphs—were not always as helpful as people thought it would be since the commanders from different countries had difficulties connecting with each other. And finally, when soldiers and commanders noticed that this method was useless they began approaching away older method used in very ancient times: the messenger pigeon or they can be referred to as the old time telecommunication sources.

The honorable heroes of the battle of World War I, the pigeons of both the Allied and Central Powers helped in accompanying their highly regarded officers with an exactness and clearness the opposite of technology.
The numerous amount of delivered messages by these feathered creatures to the US forces are still safely stored in the national archives. Looking back at the marvelous records of this small birds and their bravery in delivering all these messages at the fronts surely still has all of us shock and amazed by how they fulfilled their missions without any trouble and how their fearless actions saved thousands of American lives. These tasks shall all be remembered and noted throughout history reports.

The most impressive part about the records of these savior pigeons was how extremely they were used in any sort situation. Their assistance and company in the world war 1 is the most known help and theses flying birds could be settled easily and find their comfort zone in any range of mission given to them.

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Role Of Animals In World War 1. (2019, May 18). Retrieved September 23, 2023 , from

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