During the war, millions of horses were used in many different roles. Cavalry horses used in the first battles but both sides soon realised men on horses could not win the war in the trenches. The muddy ground, barbed wire and machine guns made it very difficult for horses, so they were used for transportation instead. In total, around 8 million horses from all sides died during the war. Donkeys and mules were sometimes used to pull heavy equipment, including artillery. Even elephants were taken from circuses and zoos to pull heavy guns. Dogs were some of the hardest and most trusted workers in World War One. These dogs stayed with one soldier or guard and were taught to give a warning sound such as growling or barking when they sensed a stranger in the area or close to camp or carried medical equipment so an injured soldier could treat himself on No Man’s Land. They would also stay beside a dying soldier to keep him company. Dogs also helped to get messages across the front line from one base to another. Over 100,000 carrier pigeons were also used to get messages from one military base to another.

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Teach

The children might research and write about other celebrated animals who have help in difficult times including the many anonymous horses, pigeons, ponies, donkeys and dogs put to work on the front line. These could also be remembered as part of Remembrance assemblies, activities or services taking part in the school. A display celebrating the many unsung animal heroes of the Great War could be created.