Throughout history, humans have used animals to solve complex military problems, including being employed as front-line combat assets and rear-line supporting roles.
Task & Purpose posted a video breaking down how a number of different animals have been used in the military for thousands of years around the globe. Watch below:
Wotjek the Bear
This Syrian Bear traveled with Polish forces through Iraq and Italy. At 490 pounds, he was awarded the rank of Private and was even issued his own serial number. He rose to the rank of Corporal and was eventually trained to carry ammo crates in Italy.
His primary purpose was one of morale-boosting and entertaining of dignitaries. The bear even drank beer, smoked cigarettes, knew how to give proper salutes and march in formation.
In ancient Rome, bees were used in catapults to launch hives and nests over the walls of defenders who were under siege. The beehives would become hostile and begin attacking the defenders on the inside of the walls.
Before military powers had access to gunpowder, hordes of wild cattle were used for stampedes against infantry forces. The tactic was typically successful, except when the defender had access to firearms that could easily take down the cattle.
It was also difficult to control and command the animals once they were set loose. Still, they effectively disrupted infantry formations and created distractions, giving the attacker time to adopt other maneuvers.
The United States Navy has conducted extensive research into using dolphins for their precise echolocation abilities. The dolphins work with Navy teams to search for underwater mines and are able to show their handlers where they have located a potential underwater hazard, as well as respond with a positive “Yes” or negative “No” when asked a question.
Carthage forces famously utilized war elephants in their fight against the Roman legions throughout Italy. The Carthage people thought so highly of elephants that they were even symbolized on their currency.
The use of elephants in service lasted into World War I, when they were used to pull heavy pieces of artillery into battle on the front lines. They were also extremely effective against light infantry forces, utilizing their tusks and massive weight to break through lines and open gaps. The riders of these elephants typically came from India and were called “Malhouts.”
Military Working Dogs
Military dogs have been utilized throughout history in various capacities, from being a loyal companion to soldiers, to being used to sniff out bombs, improvised explosive devices, drugs, security sentries, or acting as a morale boost for front-line troops.
Dogs have demonstrated their flexibility and adaptability, which makes them reliable in chaotic combat environments.
Although not as commonplace as military working dogs, cats have had some notable periods of service with foreign militaries. Tiddles the British Navy cat sailed for hundreds of miles with various HMS naval ships.
Military cats have proven useful for hunting and killing mice and rodents on ships that would often bring diseases and ruin food stores.