My tribute to all the military horses, mules, and donkeys that “served” or lost their lives in Wars

My tribute to all the military horses, mules, and donkeys that “served” or lost their lives in Wars

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn

(SGS) Stateline Genealogy Sorter

May 31, 2017

Vicki’s note- Photo posted by on I wrote this Posting based on information found at,,, and, and excerpts of commentators’ information.  This is an addition to Memorial Day tributes to all the human war veterans:

army horse tribute

American soldiers paying tribute to all the horses that lost their life in World War I.

The photograph was taken in 1917 at Camp Cody, New Mexico. The men kept fainting from the heat that day, so it took 8 hours to take the picture.  This shows a Cavalry unit – 650 officers and enlisted men of Auxiliary Remount Depot No 326.

The photo taken in 1918 was officers and recruits standing in the shape of the Liberty bell.

Horse, mules, and donkeys were “drafted; they did not volunteer. They acted against their nature by running toward guns shelling fire.  They suffered horribly in the U.S. Civil War, and World Wars.  The Allied forces had millions of horses, and countless mules and donkeys, which died from gunfire, wounds, starvation, thirst, exhaustion, disease, bad weather, miserable conditions, and exposure.

Army Horses

WWII German pack horses – similar conditions for pack mules and all wars.

Hugh Lofting fought in the trenches during World War I.  He created the idea for “The Story of Doctor Dolittle” (published in 1920) when he observed the lack of compassion shown to the horses on the battlefields. While he served, Lofting wrote stories about Dr Dolittle in his letters home to entertain his children.

Pack mules made the U.S. Army (and other countries’ armies) mobile. Mules had tremendous stamina, and carried food, supplies and ammunition to battles, returning with wounded soldiers.


WWII U.S. pack mule

Mules were critical in the Civil War. The Union Army had (purchased) about one million mules. The South only had about half as many mules, most of which the soldiers brought from their farms. The Southern farms then did not have mules to do plowing. Some historians suggest that the shortage of mules might have contributed to the South ultimately losing.

Mules were used in World War I and (less in) World War II.  They could go where rough terrains were not usable by motorized vehicles. About 8,000 mules died in those wars. Enemy submarines targeted supply ships carrying mules to destroy supplies and the means of transportation.

Six Mules hauled 2,000-pound wagons that were loaded with 3,000 pounds of cargo (including mule’s feed). In mountainous areas a train of 50 (plus) mules (in single file), carried 250 pounds each, and traveled 60 miles a day.

“War Horse” is a novel by Michael Morpurgo, made into a Broadway play, and a movie. The story, based on true events, is a tribute to all the horses that died in WW I. The horses in the play were puppets operated by three puppeteers.

“Animals in War”, by Jilly Cooper, has many true stories about the devotion and loyalty of horses, mules and donkeys to their military masters during war.

At the ends of the Wars, cavalry soldiers could not bring their horses home and officers ordered them to shoot them.

The army kept its horses and mules into the late 50s.

Did any of your military (cavalry) ancestors have the care of horses, mules, or donkeys?



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