How many Horses Perished in WW1
Totally, over 8 million horses perished during WWI. And a lot of these horses that met their doom, died as a result of the extreme conditions at the war front, exhaustion from having to run around every single day, drowning in pool water and diseases. This is a very sad Story.
The WW1 which lasted from 1914-1918, recorded millions of casualties not only on humans but for livestock like horses, which were used as cavalry during the war.
And so today, given that they were a lot of major participants in the war, who solely depended on the use of horses in their war execution tactics, we are going to have a vivid look at how important horse was during the war and the number of horses that died as a result of carrying out their duties for their country’s forces.
A BACKGROUND CHECK ON THE USE OF HORSES DURING THE WORLD WAR 1
The utilization of horses during the First World War marked a transitional time frame in the historical evolution of armed conflict. This is because prior to the war, cavalry units were regarded as highly offensive elements of a military force.
But with the intensity of the war, the weakness of horses to modern machine gun and artillery fire succeeded in reducing their effect on the battlefield.
This coupled with the development of tanks, ultimately destroyed cavalries. Nevertheless, even though these horses met their doom during the war, horses still played a significant role throughout the war.
For instance, all the major fighters including Germany, Ottoman Empire, Britain, India, Vietnam and so on, during the first World War (1914–1918), began the conflict using cavalry forces.
And even though Germany, stopped utilizing horses for mobility on the Western Front as soon as the war began, they still continued to use horses limitedly, on the Eastern Front which was well into the war. Also, the Ottoman Empire often used cavalry extensively, during the war.
And on the Allied side, the United Kingdom used what was known as “mounted infantry and cavalry charges” throughout the war, while the United States of America, made use of cavalry only a short period of time during the war.
Even though the Allied forces were not successful on the Western Front, their cavalry, achieved a huge amount of success in the Middle Eastern region, against countries that were far weaker, and deficient in their technological advancement.
For Russia, they used cavalry forces on the Eastern Front, but with limited success.
Bottom line is, during the war, most military forces made use of horses as their logistical support because horses could do better in running through deep mud and extremely rough terrain than a mechanized vehicle would.
Plus, these horses were used as reconnaissance, and for transporting messengers, as well as dragging artillery, carrying medical staffs, and supply wagons, etc.
And psychologically, it was later discovered that the sheer presence of horses around a force’s camp, often increased the soldier’s morale at the war front. However, the problem was that horses, as well as other animals that were used during the warlike dogs, all contributed to creating disease and poor sanitation in camps, as a result of their dungs and carcasses.
Nevertheless, the value of horses increased during the war so much that as of 1917, most forces like Germany and Britain, made it clear to their troops that the lives of the horses were more important than that of humans.
And it was because of the impediment that was placed against Germany, from being able to import horses that would have been used to replace the dead ones, that majorly caused Germany to lose in the war.
If they still had access to bring in more horses, perhaps the war would have been further prolonged, and defeat wouldn’t have looked so imminent for Germany.
THE HORSE CASUALTIES
The horse casualties during the war, which is sometimes known as “Equine casualties” was of great shock to many. It was so devastating that in just one day, during the Battle of Verdun in 1916, 7000 horses were killed by shelling. And as of 1917, Great Britain had over a million horses in service, which by the time the war ended, left Britain in a position where they had lost up to 484,000 horses.
Totally, over 8 million horses perished during WW1. And a lot of these horses that met their doom, died as a result of the extreme conditions at the war front, exhaustion from having to run around every single day, drowning in pool water and diseases.
Another reason why these horses, that were used to carry ammunition and supplies to war front died, was not only from the horrors of shellfire but because of the terrible weather and harsh, unsustainable conditions.
The destruction on the lives of horses during the First World War was so bad that Brigadier-General Frank Percy Crozier after the Battle of the Somme was forced to say, “My heart bleeds for the horses and mules”. According to him, it was like witnessing humans die.
MEASURES THAT WERE TAKEN TO CONTROL THE DEATH OF HORSES DURING WORLD WAR 1
When most forces like the British army, started seeing the handwriting on the wall against their horses, they immediately established veterinary hospitals to aid in speeding up the recovery process of horses that were wounded.
To be precise, the British Army Veterinary Corps hospitals, treated over 725,216 horses throughout the duration of the war. Luckily for them, they were able to heal at least 529,064.
In a nutshell, conditions such as health, accommodation, feeding and the rest were so severe for horses at the front; they were killed by artillery fire, suffered from skin disorders, while somewhere even killed as a result of inhaling poison gas.
During the First World War, unlike the second, hundreds of thousands of horses died in the battlefield, while those that managed to survive the attacks, were treated at veterinary hospitals and sent back to the front.
Procuring fodder was also a major issue, and Germany lost many horses to starvation and also the impediment waged on them to import new horses for replacement. And that also contributed to their defeat during the war.