Animals in the Military

From Hannibal's Elephants to the Dolphins of the U.S. Navy

by John M. Kistler


In ancient times, armies couldn't move without tens of thousands of animals carrying soldiers and their gear. Elephants, dogs, and even bees and wasps were utilized to attack the enemy. Perhaps surprisingly, animals still play critical roles in today's highly technology-dependent warfare. Horses have proven instrumental in combating the Taliban in Afghanistan, and giant pouched rats trained to sniff out live land mines in former battlefields are being used throughout Africa.

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Cover image for Animals in the Military

June 2011


Pages 393
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Military History/Military Technology and Weapons

This book pays tribute to the unrecognized warriors and unsung heroes of human warfare: millions of animals from a surprising variety of species, ranging from rodents to dolphins to llamas.

When one thinks of war, armies of soldiers and assaults with bullets and bombs delivered by deadly machinery typically come to mind. Throughout human history, however, animals have also played significant roles in our armed conflicts. In Animals in the Military: From Hannibal's Elephants to the Dolphins of the U.S. Navy, author John M. Kistler examines these contributions, describing the work of animals in human warfare throughout time, from lowly insects to birds to elephants.

Drawing on both ancient and modern sources, the book reveals the full scope of heroics and horror committed by—and against—animal warriors in three unique areas: animals in combat, animals in support, and animals in incidental and experimental roles. Each chapter describes a single species, chronologically recounting its fascinating place in human warfare over time, from insects used as stinging projectiles to message-delivering pigeons.


  • Includes more than 40 photos and drawings of war animals
  • Features more than 25 sidebars that illuminate topics with interesting anecdotes and facts
  • Contains a comprehensive bibliography with further readings


  • Examines the use of animals in the military as beasts of burden, messengers, scouts, and even weapons in wars around the globe from ancient times to the present day
  • Covers animals typically associated with military service, such as dogs, horses, and homing pigeons, but also more exotic creatures, including camels, sea lions, rats, and bats
  • Offers insights into other important facets of military history, such as logistical planning, psychological warfare, and the evolution of weapons systems
  • Includes an introduction that explains the book's coverage and organization of topics
Author Info

John M. Kistler, MLS, MDiv, is a freelance writer, historian, and small business owner. Kistler has written several books, including Praeger's War Elephants.



"Although a few specialized works focus solely on the military use of dogs or camels or other animals, this reference source provides a broader overview discussing many animals, albeit with much less detail. Recommended for both public and undergraduate libraries."

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