Over 16 million animals served in World War One. Horses, donkeys, mules, elephants and camels were the primary beasts of burden carrying food, water, medical supplies and ammunition to men at the front.
Dogs and pigeons were the messengers, carrying messages and instructions. Dogs were also trained to detect poisonous gas and cats were used to hunt rats in the trenches.
And let’s not forget the animal mascots — dogs, cats, monkeys, and even bears and lions were used to help raise morale and provide comfort amidst the hardships of war.
The roles these animals played were vital to armies around the world during World War I. Here are some of these brave heroes photographed at the frontline.
A German messenger dog loosed by his handler, near St. Quentin 1918. Dogs were used throughout the war as sentries, scouts, rescuers, messengers, and more.
A pigeon with a small camera attached. Trained pigeons were used experimentally by German citizen Julius Neubronner, before and during the war, to capture aerial images when a timer mechanism clicked the shutter.
Sergeant Stubby, a Boston bull terrier, was the most decorated war dog of World War I and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant through combat. He started out as the mascot of the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division, and ended up becoming a full-fledged combat dog. He was injured in a gas attack early on, which gave him a sensitivity to gas that later allowed him to warn his soldiers of incoming gas attacks by running and barking. He helped find wounded soldiers, he even captured a German spy who was trying to map allied trenches.
An Indian elephant used by Germans in Valenciennes, France to help move tree trunks in 1915. As the war dragged on, beasts of burden became scarce in Germany. Some circus and zoo animals were requisitioned for army use.
"These homing pigeons are doing much to save the lives of our boys in France. They act as efficient messengers and dispatch bearers not only from division to division and from the trenches to the rear but also are used by our aviators to report back the results of their observation."