Military Review

Four-legged couriers of the First World

Of all animals, the dog is definitely the most loyal and intelligent friend of man. Due to his cleverness, keen intelligence and considerable speed of running, the dog began to be used for military purposes from ancient times.

Four-legged couriers of the First World
1. Inspection of courier dogs on the French front.

Since ancient times, the Greek and Roman armies used dogs, both during combat and for reconnaissance. The Spartans in front of the torchbearers always ran a dog - warning with barking about the proximity of the enemy. The sensitivity of dogs once saved the city of Corinth. Tsar Philip of Macedon used dogs for patrol guarding - especially in mountainous terrain. Roman troops also had dogs - for night watchman service. In the Middle Ages, the French, Spaniards and Italians kept large packs of dogs with their troops - the latter not only carried out guard service, but also participated in hostilities. In the era of the Napoleonic Wars, one of the first cases of awarding a dog with a distinction is known - the dog "Mustash" during the battle of Austerlitz helped a lot in saving the regiment's banner. In the First World War, dogs were used mainly for communication services. Their role and significance perfectly characterize the lines of one of the appeals that were published in Germany in 1914 - 1918:

“Citizens, give your dogs to the Fatherland!
During the fierce battles that took place on the Anglo-French front, reports from dogs were delivered quickly and reliably from the front line to the behind headquarters, despite the strongest artillery shelling. Hundreds of soldiers-runners managed to save lives, as dogs perfectly performed their duties. Important operational reports they delivered in a timely manner at the place of destination. Despite the fact that the benefits offered by courier dogs are well established, there are still owners of military-friendly dogs who cannot decide to give their dogs to the service of the Fatherland. Valid: Shepherd Dogs, Dobermans, Ayredal-Terriers, Rottweilers hunting, Leonberg, Newfoundland, St. Bernard, Great Danes and specimens obtained from the crossing of these breeds, with fast running, good health, not less than one year old and no less than 50 centimeters . Dogs are trained by animal trainers, and if they survive, they will be returned to their owners. Dogs enjoy the most attentive care. Must be provided free of charge. ”

The use of dogs for the needs of the communications service was assigned special chapters in all instructions and regulations on the communications service of the French, German and other European armies.

Important was the competent choice of a dog.

On this occasion, the following was noted: "resourceful, intelligent, perfectly healthy pure blood dogs, with good eyesight and hearing, a delicate instinct, long restraint and no desire for hunting, will be quite suitable." The females were used only to entice males of the enemy, performing the tasks entrusted to them. It was believed that males were certainly more faithful and executive, especially medium-sized specimens, such as the English Airedal terriers with protruding hair, German shepherds, wolfhounds with a sharp muzzle, protruding ears, thin long hair and fluffy tail, and poodles that are most easily amenable to learning.

In the German army, before the First World War, dogs were bred and trained at the jaeger and rifle battalions - and for this purpose funds in the amount of 3 thousand marks per year were made available to the rifle inspection. It was supposed to train at each battalion on 10 - 12 dogs (at each company it was supposed to have at least 2 dogs). The training was entrusted to one of the officers, who were provided with the necessary number of people (the rangers and privates - the latter were the leaders or the leaders for the dogs).

The training of young dogs started on the 7 month (dogs must be no older than 1,5 years), holding them on a chain indoors. Training was a difficult and responsible process. Only after the termination of training the dog could be involved in field service. Moreover, it was noted that “only when a dog is allowed to show in practice what it has learned, does a certain interest in the work begin to manifest itself in it”.

The dog's outfit consisted of a leather collar, closed with an ordinary clasp and a small metal token, which indicated the name of the unit and the number of the company. A leather bag or a metal box (the lid of which should be covered tightly) was attached to the collar - for reporting. During the transitions the dog should be kept on the chain.

A well-trained dog should run an average kilometer per 3-5 minutes, even if it also needs to overcome small rivers and other obstacles. Known dogs that delivered reports over a distance of 20 and more than kilometers, as well as dogs that made small runs a day before 30.

The instructions noted the importance of the dog - especially in the delivery of messages, for example, from a post or patrol that was pushed forward to the parts that exposed them, for communication between the separate outposts, etc. After the delivery of the reports, the dog had to return immediately. A good dog also had to stay at the place indicated by her, and not to leave him until they came for her. The latter was extremely important for reconnaissance groups that tried to sneak up silently on the enemy’s position.

In the First World War, it was usually limited to training a dog for a run between two points (for example, two headquarters) for an average 2-kilometer distance. In this case, the training period for young dogs was 6 - 8 weeks.

Dogs easily made their way through difficult terrain for people, and practice showed that only a very small percentage of animals did not fulfill the tasks assigned to them. Sometimes the dog during the shelling showed fear - but even this was possible to overcome after appropriate training. There were cases when the dog, during the strongest artillery fire, found a safe haven (trench, dugout, etc.), climbed there and waited for shelling - and as soon as the latter calmed down, it would leave the shelter and flee. to destination.

Dogs were also used for transportation of other pigeons to the front line, air couriers — carrier pigeons, as well as for laying a telephone cable for a distance not exceeding one kilometer.

And by the end of the First World War, only as part of the German army there were 20000 trained courier dogs.

Courier dogs took a worthy place among special means of communication - along with optical signaling and post pigeons.

In conclusion, we present the Austrian instruction, which most fully determines the specificity of the service of courier dogs in the European armies of the First World War era.

Instructions for organizing communications through courier dogs (From the Manual for the commanders of communications of infantry, cavalry and artillery regiments of the Austro-Hungarian army) read.

“Each telegraph company of the division is given a pack of dogs with 8 leaders. Dogs are used to deliver written messages in certain areas: a) between two specific points. For example, between a secret and a trench, between a trench and a command post, along the front between different trenches, with commanders of an artillery group, etc. b) Between two points, one of which is in motion. For example, between the patrol and the trench. In special cases. c) If it is impossible to use the telephone and for fear that the conversation may be overheard by the enemy. d) If other means of communication is not valid. e) On a difficult road or in a dangerous area (in the mountains, in full view of the enemy). e) with successful searches for patrols, etc. To facilitate the work of foot messengers over considerable distances.

A properly trained dog, due to its speed and because it is a small target for shelling, serves as a good means of communication. Reports may be sent over a distance of 10 km or more. To achieve such exceptional results daily training is required. The normal distance should be considered in 2 kilometers.

The dog should be used exclusively for its intended purpose - for communication. It is forbidden to use it for other purposes. The dog should not become the pet of the part to which it is attached. She should not react to outsiders, and should recognize only her leader. On outsiders caressing the dog, should be punished. The purpose of the dog and its handling should be well known to all.

Dogs should be used as often as possible. Even if there is no immediate task, they should still be given the opportunity to make a run twice a day. To obtain good results, it is important to take measures to destroy all foreign dogs in the area from the brigade headquarters to the front. The military is allowed to keep dogs only by special permission.

Dog leaders should be used only for their intended purpose (German instructions established that leaders should be familiar with pigeon mail and be able to handle optical devices). Replacing the leaders should be avoided - because the dog works properly, only serving people familiar to it. In the event of the loss of one of the leaders, this should be replaced by a person who feels the vocation to dog breeding.

When handling a dog, the leader must adhere to the instructions given in the course. Watch leaders should be checked daily.

Upon arrival of the dog at the destination, the collar should be removed and put on again only before the start of the new run - this procedure will become a sign for the dog to run again. In addition, it greatly increases the interest of the dog in the case.

Each run must be recorded in a special book, which must be submitted once a week to the headquarters of the division - for viewing. Only the leaders are allowed to take the report from the dog. A leader at the other end of the route must not leave. He also takes care of the room for the dog - if it does not immediately come back. If the received report is to be referred by the leader, for example, to the Central Station for transmission to Headquarters, etc., then the dog should be put on a chain. If the dog along with the leader will go to different instances, the correctness of the work may suffer.

During the gas attack, a gas mask is put on the dog’s face, or it is covered with a wet scarf.

Two days a week (3 hours), the dog is provided to the platoon for training.

Strong artillery fire or a wound received can cause a seizure of fear in the dog - during each new shooting. Such a dog is no longer suitable for service and should be sent to the rear - at the direction of the commander of the telegraph company. "

But the German instructions reported that the elimination of such fear is quite possible after appropriate training.

2. Courier dogs in the trenches.
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  1. Cheburator
    Cheburator 6 March 2018 06: 40
    The dog is the smartest animal.
    No wonder there is such a joke. One says to the other: "I got such a stupid dog. I tell him: bring slippers. And he goes to the kitchen and cooks borsch."
    1. Streletskos
      Streletskos 6 March 2018 08: 35
      Chic joke good laughing
      1. Brutan
        Brutan 6 March 2018 22: 42
        And here's another one.
        The wife says to her husband: Is it true that the dogs are kind and faithful, and the cats are angry and unstable?
        What the husband answers: True, my kitty lol
  2. Olgovich
    Olgovich 6 March 2018 07: 28
    Dogs were also used for transportation to the front line of other, air, couriers - carrier pigeons, as well as for laying a telephone cable at a distance not exceeding one kilometer

    It is interesting how this happened in practice: i.e. did the dog deliver the pigeon to the trench and it flew back, or did the pigeon somehow disconnect on the front line and fly where necessary?
    How did you get the cable?
    1. XII Legion
      XII Legion 6 March 2018 07: 45
      As I understand it, a cage with pigeons was attached to the dog, and when she arrived at the destination, the specialist removed the cage and already worked with air couriers. They acted at a greater distance.
      The cable was also attached, the dog ran, he unwound.
      I was more impressed with the fact that the dog was waiting for the shelling - and ran not somewhere, but forward)
      1. Streletskos
        Streletskos 6 March 2018 08: 37
        I myself saw how in the subway dogs orient
        And I liked how the dogs were strayed from the true path - during the task)
      2. Olgovich
        Olgovich 6 March 2018 09: 48
        Quote: XII Legion
        - a cage with pigeons was attached to the dog

        Probably so. But it’s hard to imagine a cage on a dog.
        1. XII Legion
          XII Legion 6 March 2018 10: 46
          Wooden cage or wicker basket
          Especially on a large dog - it seems to me not a question
          1. Albatroz
            Albatroz 6 March 2018 10: 48
            I saw a photo
            Pigeons in a basket on a dog's back
            I have to rummage through the search
            1. soldier
              soldier 6 March 2018 16: 59
              Here is a portable dovecote
              Although on a person - it also looks nothing)
  3. parusnik
    parusnik 6 March 2018 07: 35
    A dog, a friend and helper of a person .. Banality wrote, but still ...
    1. Streletskos
      Streletskos 6 March 2018 08: 37
      You can’t say better
  4. XII Legion
    XII Legion 6 March 2018 07: 50
    And the dogs worked for the result, for the victory.
    Interesting article
    Thank you!
    1. Streletskos
      Streletskos 6 March 2018 08: 39
      Yes, everyone to the best of their ability
      Very interesting information
  5. Serge72
    Serge72 6 March 2018 09: 24
    Awesome communication tool!
    And much more reliable than telephone wires, which can often be heard.
    Fast, inconspicuous, given only to those whom the dog knows - that’s what you need.
    And the scale - 20 thousand dogs of signalmen only with the Germans confirm that the matter is worth
  6. Albatroz
    Albatroz 6 March 2018 10: 50
    A well-trained dog should run an average kilometer in 3-5 minutes

    The pace is good
    the goal is small
    So with proper training, a really excellent result. And saving the lives of soldiers - connected
    1. Brutan
      Brutan 6 March 2018 22: 45
      Dogs! God has given you to people as a reward. To warm the heart, please the eye.
      How little you need from a person.
      How much he gets from you!
  7. Some kind of compote
    Some kind of compote 6 March 2018 12: 45
    Man's best friends in the service of man
    Fine good
  8. soldier
    soldier 6 March 2018 17: 00
    A leather bag or a metal box was attached to the collar (the lid of which should be tightly covered) - for reports.

    Like this
  9. soldier
    soldier 6 March 2018 17: 01
    During a gas attack, a gas mask is put on the dog’s face

    What a funny look in a gas mask
  10. Mordvin 3
    Mordvin 3 6 March 2018 17: 16
    At Pikul, in the novel “I Have Honor,” an episode is mentioned when the Frenchmen slipped their loving dog on the paths of a German shepherd dog, a messenger. He trailed behind her.
    P.S. I am writing about a female dog, they don’t miss it. request
    1. sxfRipper
      sxfRipper 6 March 2018 21: 34
      It is possible instead of Cyrillic У insert latin Y! hi
  11. Grandfather Barsik
    Grandfather Barsik 6 March 2018 20: 50
    Fighting dogs, veterans
    There were probably awards, well done
  12. sxfRipper
    sxfRipper 6 March 2018 21: 31
    Thanks to the author. Very interesting article!
  13. soldier
    soldier 7 March 2018 08: 17
    Animal labor in WWI was multifunctional
    Orderlies, couriers, etc.
    And really done a lot.
  14. Mamka pula
    Mamka pula 7 March 2018 13: 14
    I would like to know about other animal services in different wars
    Very interesting article and topic.
    Thank you love