World War I in Photos: Animals at War

When the war began, Europe's armies had an understanding of warfare that put the use of cavalry in high regard. Soon, however, the deadly terrain that evolved around trench warfare rendered cavalry attacks nearly useless on the Western Front. But the need for constant resupply, movement of new heavy weaponry, and the transport of troops demanded horse power on a massive scale -- automobiles, tractors, and trucks were relatively new inventions and somewhat rare. British and French forces imported horses from colonies and allies around the world, a near-constant flow of hundreds of thousands of animals across the oceans, headed for war. One estimate places the number of horses killed during the four years of warfare at nearly 8 million. Other animals proved their usefulness as well: Dogs became messengers, sentries, rescuers, and small beasts of burden. Pigeons acted as messenger carriers, and even (experimentally) as aerial reconnaissance platforms. Mules and camels were drafted into use in various war theatres, and many soldiers brought along mascots to help boost morale. Only a couple of decades later, at the onset of World War II, most military tasks assigned to animals were done by machines, and warfare would never again rely so heavily on animal power. I've gathered photographs of the Great War from dozens of collections, some digitized for the first time, to try to tell the story of the conflict, those caught up in it, and how much it affected the world. This entry is part 4 of a 10-part series on World War I.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Eduard Korniyenko / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Ghost Ship, Greek Spring, Naked Festival

    Dog catchers in Cairo, luge championships in Russia, flooding in parts of England, a crash at the Daytona 500, demining in Colombia, Carnival in Venice, and much more

  • Art Media / Print Collector / Getty

    The Great Sphinx of Giza Through the Years

    Images of the Sphinx over the past 170 years, from Maxime du Camp’s 1849 travel photo to 21st-century light shows

  • Alexey Malgavko / Reuters

    Homeless in Siberia: Surviving the Winter

    Images from the photojournalist Alexey Malgavko of some of the homeless inhabitants of Omsk, Russia

  • Aly Song / Reuters

    Photos: Life in the Time of Coronavirus

    Images from Wuhan, Beijing, Shanghai, and other locations in China over the past two weeks, as residents continue to cope with COVID-19