|Carlos, war-dog veteran, 2014|
In June of 2014, five US veteran war dogs were present on Capitol Hill to represent canines in an effort to establish that Congress emphasize a law passed last year saying that the military “may” bring back working dogs to the United States to be reunited with their handlers; to be changed that they go back with their handlers when their tour of duty is finished. Carlos, pictured at left, has his own Facebook page.
Dogs have a long history of participating in warfare reaching back to ancient times. Dogs continue to participate in military roles.
|Molossus - British Museum|
A Roman copy of a Greek sculpture of a guard dog, known as the Jennings Dog, is testament to that idea – now displayed in the British Museum. Regardless, the Molossus was most commonly used as a guard dog and hunting. As Grattius wrote:
...when serious work has come, when bravery must be shown, and the impetuous War-god calls in the utmost hazard, then you could not but admire the renowned Molossians so much.
Virgil mentioned the Molossus:
Never, with them on guard, need you fear for your stalls a midnight thief, or onslaught of wolves, or Iberian brigands at your back.
Aristotle mentioned the Molossus in his history of animals and praised their bravery and physical superiority. To picture their size, one need only look at the Mastiff.
The earliest recorded use of war dogs in battle was by Alyattes of Lydia who fought against the Cimmerians about 600 BC.
In the middle of the 7th century BC in the war between the Ephesians and Magnesia, each Magnesian horseman had a war dog and a spear bearer. The dogs were released first and broke the enemy ranks, followed by an assault of spears, then a cavalry charge.
|Egyptian dog, similar to modern Greyhound|
In 525 BC, at the Battle of Pelusium, Cambyses II used a psychological tactic against Egyptians by lining up dogs and other animals in the front line knowing the Egyptians revered animals.
In 490 BC, at the Battle of Marathon, a dog accompanied a hoplite into battle against the Persians, as depicted in a mural.
In 480 BC, Xerxes I of Persia was accompanied by large packs of Indian hounds when he invaded Greece.
In 281 BC, Lysimachus was slain during the Battle of Corupedium, his body guarded by his faithful dog.
In 231 BC, Roman consul, Marcus Pomponius Matho led Roman legions through Sardinia, using dogs to hunt out natives trying to hide in caves.
In 120 BC, Bituito, king of Avenii, attacked a small force of Romans led by consul Fabius, using only dogs in his army.
In 55 BC, Julius Caesar landed in Britain to be confronted by Celtic warriors and their dogs, the English Mastiff, the oldest recorded breed.
1914-1918: Dogs were used by international forces to deliver vital messages. It is estimated that one million dogs were killed in action during that war. During World War I, English Bulldog was considered the unofficial mascot of the US Marine Corps. The dogs were called Devil Dogs (“teufel-hunden”) by the Germans (also a name given to the Rottweiler and Doberman Pinscher). US Marine posters soon had bulldogs pictured to represent the ferocity of the US Marines, and in 1922 it became the official mascot for the United States Marine Corps.
|Belgian Military Dogs pulling Maxim Gun carriage|
The Belgian Army used dogs to pull their Maxim Guns on wheeled carriages and supplies, and sometimes wounded in carts. This use ended when trench warfare began after two months of the war.
The French had 250 war dogs.
The Dutch army copied the idea and trained hundreds of dogs.
1943-1945: The US Marine Corps used dogs, donated by American owners, in the Pacific Theater against Imperial Japanese. The Bull Dog had become the symbol-mascot for the US Marines, and other breeds were used by the US Army as well. Because of Winston Churchill, the English Bulldog became a national mascot.
1941-1945: Soviet Union soldiers used dogs strapped with explosives to destroy invading German tanks. The problem was that the dogs were trained with stationary Russian tanks, so seldom did they run under moving tanks, instead being shot when running alongside moving German tanks. If German and Russian tanks were present, the dogs would recognize the Russian tanks and run towards them.
|Sp4 Bealock and Chief|
1966-1973: During the course of the Vietnam War, about 5,000 war dogs served in the US Army and about 10,000 US servicemen served as dog-handlers. K9 units, as they became known, saved over 10,000 lives. 232 military dogs and 295 US dog handlers were killed in action during the war. It is estimated that 200 Vietnam War dogs survived the war to be assigned to other US bases outside the US. The remaining dogs were either left behind or euthanized.
2011: US Navy SEALs used a Belgian Malinois working dog named Cairo in Operation Neptune Spear, when Osama bin Laden was killed.
Hounds were used in the American Civil War to protect, send messages, and guard prisoners.
Dogs were used as mascots in World War I as American morale and recruiting posters.
Dogs were used as scouts in World War II, Korea, as well as Vietnam, detecting ambushes, booby traps, weapon caches, or enemy fighters hiding on land or in water. The US Army had a dedicated dog training school at Fort Benning, Georgia.
|Afghanistan Military Dog|
During the Cold War, dogs were used as sentries outside of nuclear weapons storage areas.The US Air Force used dogs as sentries in Vietnam and Thailand.
Today's military dogs are equipped with canine tactical vests outfitted with cameras, microphones, and even night vision devices. Personnel cutbacks have reduced USAF dog teams to about 530.