by Adam Wadhwani


Sharing the Planet: Animals in War

Animals are used for many war tasks. These tasks are mostly ones that humans can’t do or can’t do as well as animals. Humans don’t have the right senses or technology for sniffing out bombs or delivering messages. Animals can also thrive in terrains that humans can’t without getting really tired such as under water or in deserts. People also can’t identify incoming attacks. Therefore there are a wide range of uses that animals serve.


Dogs have served in the army for up to 14,000 years. The most commonly used types of dogs are Dobermans, German Sheppards, and GBS’s, a special type of German Sheppard. These animals, known as man’s best friend, are used because of their amazing sense of smell. The most common use of dogs is finding bombs. They are also used to locate wounded soldiers, smell incoming gas or shells, and guard camps. Dogs can also carry medical supplies for wounded soldiers, as well as deliver letters sent from their commanders.

Dogs continue to be used in modern warfare.  These days about 2000 dogs are working in the U.S. military alone.  The military breeds dogs for certain tasks. It also buys dogs from other breeders. The U.S. trains some of them at the military working dog center. It is located at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The U.S. has placed many of the dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One very famous military dog was Stubby.  Stubby was a World War I hero.   He fought with the US military against the Germans in France.  He was able to detect incoming gas attacks.  Due to his special dog hearing, he was able to alert the soldiers silently that the enemy was creeping up.  Stubby was also used to locate and comfort the wounded.  Stubby outranked his owner and won more medals than any other dog in the military.


Horses have been used in war since 1350 B.C. In old times they were ridden into battle so that the soldiers could shoot arrows. Horses also dragged carriages with weapons, food, and water. They were also used to transport wounded soldiers to the hospital.  WWI was the last time a large number of horses were used. Even with their astonishing speed, 8 million horses were killed in WWI. Since WWI, tanks have taken over.


In the U.S. marine force, the bottlenose dolphin has been used since 1960. This water mammal can find underwater mines using clicking sounds. The dolphin senses the sound waves bouncing back when a mine is in the way of the ship. It can also spot enemy swimmers and report back to his owner and can do underwater video-taping with a camera held in its mouth. Finally the dolphin can deliver equipment to divers underwater. The U.S. kept this force a secret until 1990.

There is a program in San Diego that trains marine animals for underwater investigations. One hundred animals are currently ready to serve. Dolphins have been used in the Vietnam and Iraq wars.

Sea Lions

Alongside the dolphin, sea lions are a part of the underwater army. These fantastic sea creatures will dive up to 1,000 feet to find underwater explosives. Once they find the mines, they strap cables to them so that soldiers can recover and safely detonate or defuse the explosives. They can also film people swimming or riding on an incoming boat. Sea lions have good underwater, low-light vision giving them an advantage in the dark or muddy water.

Carrier Pigeon

Pigeons go back 5,000 years in the history of war. These flying aces soar through battles at top speed to soldiers. The first thing pigeons were used for was bringing back results of the battle. Later on they were developed to fly longer distances to carry secret messages. The system works by raising the pigeons in the base territory. Then soldiers bring them to enemy grounds where the battle is going on. Here soldiers give them a message and they fly home (the base). For example, they are raised in London. Soldiers take them to France. They put a letter in message holders on their legs and the pigeons fly back to London.

One of the most famous carrier pigeons in the history of war is G.I. Joe.  He flew at top speed from a village in Italy to the American and British headquarters with a note saying that they had already conquered the village.  If he had gotten there five minutes later, the American and British were going to bomb the village and kill many of their own troops.   This took place in World War II.


The elephant used to be one of the animals most used in war. This giant beast would be ridden into battle and trample its enemy at 20 miles per hour. Its huge tusks were also a perfect war weapon used to pierce enemy soldiers. Thanks to the elephant’s trunk, humans were launched into the air. The elephant also used to forge flooded fields.

Camels and Mules

Camels and Mules have been used for their strength and ability to survive in desserts. The soldiers pile large loads of supplies on their backs. These supplies include food, water, weapons, and explosives. The army stopped using them at the beginning of World War One. Most of the camels fled to Canada.


Pigs were used in old times by armies who faced elephants. The squeal of a hog (female pig) or bore (male pig) filled the elephants with fear and made them flee. Sometimes the pigs were even set on fire so they would run towards the enemy.

Lampyris Noctiluca : European Glowworm

During WWI the Lampyris Noctiluca, better known as the European glowworm, took its turn in war by serving as a source of light. The worms spent their days and nights in trenches giving off light. A total of ten glowworms can produce the same amount of light as a street lamp


These flying rats with radar were tested to play a role as a crucial weapon against the Japanese in WWII. Bats’ ability to carry more than their weight in flight gave them the ability to drop bombs over cities in Japan. Because the Japanese houses were constructed from wood, bamboo, and paper, the bombs would cause large fires. However, these tests never led to bats actually being used in combat. In the end they used the rest of the testing money on atomic bombs.


How Technology Replaced Animals

Over time, technology replaced animals in war. Technology had advantages. It did not cost lives of animals. Also, the technology was more effective in eliminating enemies. Horses, camels, and mules, were eliminated from war due to the fact that we have tanks. With tanks we can ride and kill without wasting animal lives. Pigeons are no longer used because of radio communication. Trench warfare is no longer used because of more effective ways of defense. Also, glowworms have been replaced by battery-powered lights such as electric lanterns and flashlights.

Animals that have not been replaced by technology

Not all animals have been replaced by recent advancements. Dogs have a keen sense of smell unable to be replaced by modern technology. Dolphins and sea lions can sense sound waves bouncing back at them. So far this cannot be mimicked by humans and underwater equipment.


There are many different opinions coming from many different people about whether it is fair to send animals to war.  The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals known as PETA say that it is unfair because the animals do not get to say their opinion on if it is worth fighting.  Another opinion might be that it is okay to use animals in war because it saves humans lives.

I think that it is unfair to make animals a part of human war because the animals are losing their lives without knowing that they are taking that risk. Also it is not the animals’ fight that they are being dragged into.  Additionally, the animals are treated in a painful way to better motivate them.

I believe that if we have technology now to do at least most of the responsibilities of animals in war, we should use it.   Instead of investing money on training, food, water, and equipment for animals, the military can use that money to create new machines that take the animals´ place. As a result I am against the use of animals in war.


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