103 Years Ago this Month, America’s Horses and Mules Began their One-Way Journey to the Battlefields of World War One

Brooke USA’s Horse Heroes campaign is remembering those animals by helping today’s working Equids.
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horses being shipped to europe for WWI

Horses and mules await shipment aboard ocean-going vessels headed to Europe for WWI.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entering World War One. For three years prior to that, America’s horses and mules were being shipped to England and on to France and other countries for the war effort, the first having left the shores of the U.S. 103 years ago this month. Brooke USA’s Horse Heroes campaign is honoring the memory of those American war horses by raising funds to improve the welfare of working horses, donkeys, and mules around the world.

Once purchased for the war effort, America’s horses and mules endured a strenuous journey that included traveling to a seaport and shipping in cargo holds across the Atlantic. After several weeks at sea, the animals were admitted to quarantine upon arriving in England. They were shod and kept at remount stations to recover from their trips overseas before they began their formal training as war horses.

mule ship loading WWI

How mules and horses were loaded/unloaded from ships going to Europe for WWI.

The contributions of equines in World War One were immeasurable, and the number of equine lives lost was just as significant. Equines were a crucial part of the war effort, as they carried soldiers into battle and injured men to safety. Horses also hauled military supplies such as medicine, food, water, ammunition, guns and other necessary resources to the front lines. The horrific smells, sounds, and sights, and the suffering that they endured alongside their soldiers, can only be imagined.

Sadly, most of the horses and mules who survived the war were later sold for slaughter or hard labor in the foreign countries where they served. As a result, Dorothy Brooke, the wife of a British Army officer stationed in Cairo, began her lifelong mission to rescue these equine war heroes. She start the organization that is now the world’s largest international equine welfare charity, Brooke.

Today more than 100 million horses, donkeys and mules in the developing world have similar jobs and suffer similar fates as yesterday’s war horses as they labor to provide a livelihood for 600 million of the world’s poorest people. The majority of these equids experience chronic suffering and early mortality rates. Exhaustion, dehydration, crippling injuries, lameness and disease take their toll on nearly 80 percent of working equids in the developing world.

Brooke USA’s Horse Heroes campaign, an official Centennial Partner of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission, will fund equine welfare programs to assist many of those animals and families. To date the campaign has raised nearly $900,000 toward their goal of one million dollars – one dollar in memory of each of America’s horses and mules who served in World War I.

From now through the end of the year, each Horse Heroes donor of $250 or more will receive the book, “Warrior: The Amazing Story of a Real War Horse,” by General Jack Seely, with illustrations by Sir Alfred Munnings.

For more information, please go to www.HorseHeroes.org.

Brooke USA's mission is to significantly improve the welfare of horses, donkeys and mules and the people they serve throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America by raising funds and responsibly directing them to the areas of greatest need.