War Horses During World War I

During World War I, over 8 million horses participated in battles. And one of them is the warhorses of World War I. The warhorses of World War I were significant in battles, and many were saved by them.

The Great War, also known as World War I (1914-1918), was between the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Ottoman Empire) and the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, and Russia). Cavalry charges led by these horses played a major role in many battles during World War I.

Many warhorses died due to battle wounds and disease but also from accidents such as getting stuck in shell holes or drowning after falling into rivers. It is estimated that over 500,000 horses died during the war.

How were war horses used?

A couple of brown horses standing on top of a grass covered field

The most famous use of the warhorse was the cavalry charges. Many people do not know that different breeds were warhorses, but generally, they were large and strong to carry a soldier and their equipment. Some examples of breeds used include:

Many used Arabian war horses because they were fast, strong with endurance, and could navigate harsh terrain. They were in the Middle Eastern campaigns of World War I.

The Akhal-Teke was a desert breed from Turkmenistan, which was a warhorse. They were well-known to be incredibly fast, and riding them was a required skill.

Cleveland Bay is a British native that is considered the best breed of war horses because they could pull heavy weights for long distances and could navigate difficult terrain.

The shire warhorse was large but was very well known to be gentle giants. Shires are known for their calm temperament and stamina.

The Percheron is another large breed that was used as a warhorse. They are known for being gentle with great stamina and strength.

How were the horses cared for?

A group of armor in front of a statue

Horses used in World War I were not only forced to fight in battles but also had to deal with harsh conditions around them. Many horses were injured from artillery shells, poison gas, and weapons. It is why many horses died in or after the war.

Due to not being in new technology at the time, there was not much medicine for horses during World War I, so they relied on home remedies such as cider vinegar and honey. Horses needed special care due to the injuries suffered from fighting and the conditions around them. For example, war horses used in the Middle Eastern Campaigns had to deal with extreme heat and lack of water daily.

Invalid vets were to care for sick and injured horses so they could return to fighting. These invalid veterinarians often treated injuries by cleaning them out with a knife or scissors before applying medication. Due to the lack of medicine, many horses had their limbs amputated.

The World Wars were brutal on all animals involved, not just war horses. Horses were not in war but needed shelter, food, and water to live off. Many animals died because of disease or freezing temperatures during World War I. And thanks to advances in technology after WWII, war horses are no longer part of battles today.

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