"Cry Havoc! and let slip the dogs of war"
HOWEVER trite may be the saying that history repeats itself, it is unquestionably apposite in regard to the employment of dogs in warfare. Great hounds were used to guard the camps of Rome. In even more primitive times they were formidable adversaries in hand-to-hand conflicts, while to come to more modern days Frederick the Great and Napoleon - two of the greatest soldiers the world has ever seen - held a very high opinion of the value of canine sentries. Napoleon, in fact, is said to have urged Marmont to fasten dogs to stakes around the circuit of the walls of Alexandria to keep guard.
[Recent wars have served to emphasize the advantages which may be gained by the use of the peculiar qualities of scent and hearing which dogs possess. Their sense of scent we human beings lack almost entirely, while they not only hear audible things more quickly than we do, but also hear things which are quite inaudible to us. Is it to be wondered at, therefore, that military experts have not been slow to recognize such potential properties?
The present-day tendency consequently is to bring dogs more and more into the foreground in warfare. During the Russo-Japanese War the whole of the Manchurian Railway line was guarded by dogs, who gave the alarm, and on several occasions prevented the Japanese crossing the line. Those which were sent out from England with the Abor Expedition, N. W. Frontier, more than once prevented the sentries from being rushed during night duty, owing to their keener sense of hearing. In the Tripoli campaign their value was frequently demonstrated, while the dogs belonging to Major Richardson, the famous English trainer of war dogs, rendered yeoman service to the Bulgarians at the siege of Adrianople, where they were able to give warning of attempted sorties by the Turks. Some of Major Richardson's well-trained animals were also used in the Spanish trenches in Morocco, being responsible for the finding of hundreds of wounded men who would otherwise have been left to their fate.
At the present moment most of the modern armies employ dogs, although naturally opinions differ as to the most suitable type of dog. The Russians have adopted the Caucasian dog, Austria, Dalmatians; Turkey, Asiatic Sheepdogs; France and Belgium, the smugglers' dogs of the Belgium frontier; while Germany uses Collies, Pointers and Airedales. So far the British Army has ignored the value of trained dogs, though the Admiralty some five years ago instituted a scheme for the use of dogs in naval stations ashore. Major Richardson believes that the only really useful dogs are the Airedale, Sheepdog, and Bloodhound.
What part dogs will play in the present great conflict time only will show, but that it will probably be a large one may be gathered from the fact that the German army alone possesses over 6,000.
Corps of Sentry Dogs.
The importance of determining some efficient and economical form of traction for Infantry machine guns had been under consideration in Belgium before the war. Up till recently, pack-horse transport had been considered the most satisfactory system. Exhaustive trials between this method and that of wheel traction by a pair of dogs of a breed known in that country as the Belgian Mastiff, have, however, resulted in favour of the latter, and the final adoption of this mode of transport for the Machine Gun Units of the Belgium Army. This form of traction is not novel in Belgium in civil life. According to the Journal of the Royal Artillery the breeding of dogs for light draught purposes has long been in vogue in that country, for the purpose of conveying farm produce from the country into the towns. Dog traction is employed by the country people, - milkmen, bakers, greengrocers, and many artisans with light carts, in conducting their trade and business. There are reckoned to be 50,000 dogs available for this purpose in Belgium, of which 10,000 are in Brussels alone. They are found to be admirably suited for the purpose. Their bodies are thick set, loins strong, and they have deep chests, and muscular limbs. A dog of 110 lbs. weight is capable of drawing on a good road a load of 880 lbs., and a horse 1,100 to 1,300 lbs. (or ten times and upwards the weight of one of these dogs), cannot draw much more than the equivalent increase of his weight. With an average load of 660 lbs. behind the team on good roads, a dog can keep up for long distances a pace of 4 or 5 miles an hour; for several hundred yards he can attain a speed of from 6 to 7 miles an hour.
The price of a pack-horse is not less than £40, and his daily forage may be reckoned to cost about 1 / 4 1/2 a day, without taking into consideration the construction and upkeep of his stable. The pack-saddle costs about £15, whereas dog harness can be purchased for the pair of dogs for something less than £4. A male dog costs £4, and his food per day amounts to about 4 1/2d. Finally, the small carriage for the machine gun or ammunition cart costs about £8, and the net cost for construction and unkeep of kennels is something small. Moreover, as the dog does not require shoes, lameness is rare, which we well know from the enormous distances he can go when hunting. He is intelligent and docile, and puts all his heart into serving his master faithfully under all circumstances. The length of his military service may be taken at from eight to nine years. The discipline of the trained dog is such that an untrained dog, harnessed with him, would be compelled to submit to all the movements of the former. On the march, and under fire, one can rely on his working till absolutely exhausted or mortally wounded. These are the qualities which can be developed in the breeding kennel, and in his subsequent training. The four wheels of the little gun carriage are made of tubes of steel, light, low and stable, and fitted with pneumatic tires. The carriage complete does not weigh more than 220 lbs., and is easily dragged by the team of two dogs, or eventually carried by the four members of the detachment. Its height and breadth are each about 31 inches. The trials were carried out to test the following:- Visibility, mobility on roads and across country, overcoming obstacles, and resistance to fatigue. They lasted three weeks in bad weather, during which a distance of 250 miles was covered. The six pack-horses were wither-galled, and had to be successively replaced but not so the dogs. On the march across country, or commons, of from 1½ to 3 miles, where the ground presented obstacles or was broken up, the dogs gained without doubt in mobility and speed over the horses, especially when ditches, hedges and low walls had to be negotiated. The teams crossed with ease ploughed land and crops, copses and banks. Assisted by the detachments they crossed over deep ditches and steep slopes. The horses showed signs of fatigue long before the dogs. The latter were afraid of nothing, and followed perfectly the member of the detachment charged with leading each team. They lay down or resumed the order of march on a signal, without even barking, and in perfect order.
The smallest fold in the ground concealed the teams, and at 300 yards distance, nothing of them could be distinguished. Coming into or out of action was more rapidly effected than in the case of the pack-horses.
The regiments to which they were attached had three sections, each of 2 guns and 4 ammunition carts, requiring 36 dogs for the 18 vehicles.
In action the dogs gave every satisfaction, and whilst halted in positions of readiness for often considerable periods, they lay down quietly waiting in their harness.
In coming into action the Nos. 1 had sometimes to creep on in front, accompanied by the team driver of each gun, in order to choose their positions in actions. At a signal, the teams moved quickly up into the emplacements when, the detachments having brought the guns into action, the empty carriages with their drivers proceeded to the rear and rejoined the ammunition carts under cover.
The trials indeed were so successful that orders were issued to erect, for all infantry regiments, kennels for a dozen dogs per unit, and at Beverloo a remount and training establishment for these dogs was to be formed.
It is even reported in the course of the campaign, in Belgium that the war dogs of the machine guns took a still more active part by "going for" German soldiery.