Animals in War
When Animals Are Drafted
War Horses – the Engines of Battle
For Kittens of War, Marines are Heroes
All Creatures Great and Small
When Soldiers Deploy
The 80th Commando
Animal Soldiers Go Hi-Tech
Battle Buddy Now Therapy Donkey
Warrior Dog Gets Stem Cell Therapy
Animals, Conspiracies and ‘The Avengers’
Should We Be Testing Weapons of War on Animals?
Stray Dogs of War Take a Bow
The Most Decorated Dog
The Lion of Afghanistan
A Brief Timeline
Horses have rightly been called the supreme animals of war. They have played the largest role of any animal in war, and have paid the price more than all other animals put together. In many wars, their deaths greatly outnumbered those of humans.
The history of horses in war begins more than 4,000 years ago in the Middle East.
2000 BCE: The Hyksos people build horse-drawn chariots for their continuing feud with the Egyptian Empire. They drive their one-man, one-horse vehicles into the heart of the Egyptian army with devastating and terrifying effect. But the Egyptians waste no time building their own chariots, bigger and better, soon drawn by two horses and carrying three men: one to steer, and two to fire on the enemy.
1550 BCE: The Egyptian chariot corps has now become the elite force of the Egyptian army, scattering their enemies, who retaliate, whenever possible, by slashing the tendons of the horses’ legs, thus hamstringing them and leaving them unable to walk so that they die under the burning desert sun.
350 BCE: 12-year-old Alexander of Macedon persuades his father to let him try to ride Bucephalus, an uncontrollable horse who’s going to be put down. Understanding that Bucephalus is afraid of his own shadow, Alexander walks calmly up to him, turns the horse’s head to face the sun so he can’t see his shadow, strokes him, and climbs on his back without problem. (Or, at least, so the story goes!)
Alexander rides the horse through dozens of campaigns in Persia and India, and when Bucephalus dies, he is buried with military honors and a city is built over his grave.
The Middle Ages
War is becoming increasingly technological and complex, and after the invention of the deadly crossbow and longbow, horses are being bred bigger and bigger, so they can be outfitted with heavy armor and carry an armored knight.
1066: By the time of the Battle of Hastings, horses are outfitted with stirrups and saddles, which Europe has learned from the invasion of Attila the Hun.
1314: Battle of Bannockburn. Robert the Bruce defeats England’s Edward II. The armored horses and their English knight riders are so heavy they get bogged down in the muddy battlefield, where many of them die.
1770: Gunpowder vs. horses. As horses become ever more vulnerable to artillery, Frederick the Great introduces gun carriages, each drawn by a team of six galloping horses. In 1793, the British counter by creating the Royal Horse Artillery.
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