It is true, dogs did joined Kings in battles, like the Crimean War, the American Civil War, the First Anglo-Boer War and the Russo-Japanese War.
“A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry wind blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wound and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends deserts he remains. When riches take wings, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.
“If fortune drives the master forth, an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in death.” (George Graham Vest – c. 1855, “Tribute to the Dog”, George Graham Vest (1830-1904), U.S. Senator of Missouri)
This is one of the best speeches I ever read. In fact, while he was still practicing law, George Graham Vest won a trial with this speech.
Dogs helped Kings in their battles
It is said that four hundred terrier dogs, each “garnished with good yron collers” helped Henry VIII of England and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain in their battles against the French.
Henry VIII kept quite a few dogs in his chambers. We know this for a fact because Henry’s fool), Will Somers, is said to have curled up among them to sleep.
“Toe Greyhoundes collars of crimsun velvette and cloth of gold … two other collars with the Kinges armes … a collar of white velvette, embrawdered with perles, the swilvels of silver…”
Did you know that among the thirty breeds currently recognized by the American Kennel Club, only four have an origin other than the British Isles?
Napoleon Bonaparte also favoured dogs and Frederick the Great of Germany had them employed as watchdogs for his sentries.
“The lonely soldier on guard who, for the first time probably, faces the dark shadows with their lurking dangers in the enemy country, will do his duty better and more fearlessly if a faithful dog is with him to warn him of impending events.”From “Scout, Red Cross and Army Dogs“
Dogs and the Crimean War
The Crimean War involved a massive use of horses.
Fought for influence in the Middle East, especially control over the religious sites of the Holy Land, the Crimean War opposed an alliance of Britain, France, Turkey and Sardinia against Russia.
Dogs were used as sentries or for sighting. Surely the use of their acute smell was the main reason, although very little was known or understood back then about the dog’s superb olfactory abilities.
Dogs and the American Civil War
The American Civil War another war carried on horseback.
Little Sally was the mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania infantry.
Sally followed the men everywhere, she marched with them, she was the first to get up in the morning and the last to sleep at night.
At the Battle of Gettysburg they thought she was lost. They found her three days later, guarding the bodies of some of the men in the 11th Pennsylvania infantry that had been killed. Sadly, in February 1865, during a fight in the south of Petersburg, Virginia, Sally was killed. Despite the battle going on, the soldiers dropped their muskets and buried Sally in the field.
In 1890 the 11th Pennsylvania raised a monument at Gettysburg. With a soldier on top and a statue of Sally at the bottom, still guarding her soldiers of the 11th Pennsylvania.
And you can see a doggy biscuit or two. (From Untold Stories of the Civil War)
A special dog during the Second Boer War
Since I live in South Africa I feel that I need to mention the sturdy, brave dog Bob who helped many British soldiers, by the look of this propaganda postcard.
Although the British would have fought against the Boers, which were the South African farmers of Dutch, German, or Huguenot descent settled in the Transvaal (now Mpumalanga Province) and the Orange Free State (now Free State Province), Bob proved extremely brave and he did saved human lives after all.
It was a very hot summer and water supplies were limited. The soldiers would strap bottles to Bob’s body and the brave dog would go to a nearby stream, dodging bullets on his way there and back, lie down in the cool water until the bottles were full and bring them back to the troops.
Dogs and the Russo-Japanese War
In 1904, Imperial Russia used ambulance dogs during the Russo-Japanese War as well as to guard railways. But these dogs were trained by a British dog enthusiast who later trained hundreds of dogs for the Allies during both World Wars.
The Russian Embassy in London asked Edwin Hautenville Richardson to supply ambulance dogs for the Russian troops. He sent Airedales that performed so well, the Dowager Empress Marie thanked him with gifts.
Major General Tucker, commanding the forces in Scotland, concluded at the War Office:
“Forwarded and strongly recommended. Seeing that every foreign government has already recognized the use of dogs, either for ambulance purposes or sentry work, or both, I am of opinion that advantage should be taken without delay of Major E. H. Richardson’s knowledge and experience in the matter of breeding and training them, and some military training centre selected for the purpose. it seems likely that Salisbury Plain might offer greater facilities in this respect than Aldershot; but on this point, as on other matters of details, I would suggest that Major Richardson be consulted.”
This is only a drop of information about the amazing roles dogs played in so many battles.
We saw here how the old claim that a dog is one’s best friend is validated through historical records, be it art, folklore or books.
Next time we will look at why were dogs indispensable during the two world wars, at the dog’s role during the Great War, during the Second World War, at dog mascots and true war stories about dogs as well as many more amazing tales about dogs in the war, throughout the decades.
I hope you will join me again!
My latest book, Silent Heroes, is a work of fiction about the Military Working Dogs and the amazing Marines and local people caught in the War in Afghanistan.