Domesticated horses, dogs and pigeons have been indispensable to our societies.
They have accomplished vital tasks for the military, law enforcement and the disabled.
Horses have performed notably in battle. For example, on the Great Plains, Native Americans dauntlessly confronted their adversaries while mounted on skillful and stunning painted horses.
Impressive were horse cavalries during the Civil War. They scouted, guarded supplies, pulled artillery and engaged in battle.
Robert E. Lee’s courageous horse Traveller remains famous. In World War I, horses engaged in offensives in France. In World War II, they participated in the conflict in the Philippines. After 9/11, Green Berets fought on horseback to liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban.
Today, technology has mostly replaced war horses. However, horse cavalry patrols keep law and order at home. Congested areas like New York City maintain mounted units. In Florida, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Unit helps deter crime and find missing persons.
Military dogs have outstandingly served our country. During the Civil War, they delivered classified information, foraged for food and water for the troops, served as prison guards and pulled equipment. During the two world wars, they performed similar tasks and were available to rescue downed pilots.
Routinely, war dogs have been heroes. In Vietnam, Nemo, a German Shepherd U.S. sentry dog, shielded his wounded handler despite his own injuries. In 2011, Cairo, a Belgian Malinois attack dog, participated with the Navy SEALs in the deadly raid of the Osama bin Laden compound. Military dogs can cost more than $150,000.
At home, dogs are constantly on duty. K-9 units detect drugs and explosives, track missing persons, attack fugitives, locate evidence and perform many other duties.
Also significant are service dogs, which can provide emotional support, open a door, retrieve a phone and perform other duties. When veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder experience panic attacks or nightmares, service dogs can interrupt these episodes. Golden Retrievers are highly qualified.
Messenger pigeons were likewise essential. They served this country in WWI and WWII by expediting military communication. In 1918, Cher Ami, a pigeon from the U.S. Army Signal Corps, saved about 200 soldiers exposed to German and friendly fire. Despite injuries, this bird flew 25 miles in about half an hour to headquarters. Ultimately, pigeons were replaced by telegraph, telephone and radio transmissions.
Indeed, horses, dogs and pigeons have served throughout history.
Ancient Egyptians trained dogs for war duty and horses to pull military chariots. Alexander the Great rode Bucephalus, his prize stallion, in battle. Julius Caesar relied on messenger pigeons during the conquest of Gaul. Genghis Khan took advantage of messenger pigeons to promptly transmit data across rugged territory. Napoleon Boneparte rode war horse Marengo in battle.
“Clearly, animals know more than we think, and think a great deal more than we know.” — Irene M. Pepperberg