Unleash the Dogs of War

IT should come as no surprise that a dog was part of the US Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden, as canines have been doing this for millennia, if not previously by rappelling down from helicopters. The Lydians deployed them in the 7th century BC while at least one played a significant role in the battle of Marathon (490BC) though not presumably by running 26.2 miles, as commemorated in a mural of the times.

The Romans placed a great value on war dogs, specifically the Canis Molossus from Epirus, until it proved no match for the mighty mastiff of Britannia, which the Romans, promptly expropriated and imported.

Spanish ‘conquistadores’ used dogs to attack and disembowel unfortunate South American natives, which may explain why, in 1525, Henry VIII sent 400 mastiffs to please King Ferdinand of Spain (he was still married to Catharine of Aragon, the King’s daughter.) His daughter, Elizabeth 1, sent twice as many to help put down the Desmond rebellions in Ireland 40 years later.

Dogs were also used in the American Civil War and First World War but were not officially inducted into the US Army until 1942, even before Harry Truman desegregated the military. About 5,000 of them served in the Vietnam War, though how many were cooked and eaten by the Viet Cong has not been recorded.

There are currently roughly 2,800 dogs on active US military duty, mostly sniffing out mines and roadside explosive devices, at which their success rate is reportedly higher than Predator drones.


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