6 Insane Uses of Animals in Wartime (That Actually Worked)
Animals have been used in warfare for centuries. Sometimes it makes perfect sense -- horses have pulled chariots, and mules have carried equipment. Other times, it's more like Mickey Rourke unleashing a tiger on Jean-Claude Van Damme, as witnessed in the war documentary Double Team.
And sometimes, it's crazier than that. That's how we wound up with ...
The Mongolian chieftain Timur invaded India in 1398, because when you're Mongolian that's just kind of what you do. He marched on Delhi and was met by the army of Sultan Mahmud Khan, who had 120 war elephants at his command, covered in armor and with giant scimitars attached to their tusks.
"That's OK, guys. I don't want to play anymore."
But that's not the insane use of animals we want to talk about here.
Because do you know what Timur used to counter these unstoppable killing machines? Camels. Flammable, flammable camels.
Confident of victory, Khan ordered his army to advance. Timur needed to do something, and fast. His army was starting to panic, and some of his soldiers were running away. Timur had heard elephants were easily startled, and figuring he had nothing to lose, he uttered the Mongolian equivalent of "Fuck it," ordered all his camels to the front lines, then covered them in straw and oil and set them on fire.
They don't give out crowns like that to the guys who don't light hundreds of camels on fire.
The flaming camels charged forward, probably as a result of being set on fire, and scared the shit out of the elephants. Desperate to get away from the camels, the elephants turned and ran, which was unfortunate for the Indian infantry because they were standing right behind the elephants. Unable to control the stampede, Kahn could only watch helplessly as the elephants tore through his infantry, smashing their heads to atoms. The Indian army was routed in minutes.
Good times were had by all.
Timur went on to sack, pillage and rape the shitnoodles out of Delhi, but he wasn't done there. He had all 120 war elephants rounded up and forced to kneel in front of him, a ceremony during which even the elephants wondered what the hell was going on. Confident that nobody else would think to set their own units on fire, he added the elephants to his army and used them to take Ankara.
Yes, "killer" dolphins -- we're not talking about using dolphins to find underwater mines or rescue soldiers or some shit.
As we have said before, dolphins are assholes. They are also very good guards. The U.S. Navy figured this out and started a marine mammal program in 1960, with the Soviets soon following suit. Yes, the Americans were training their dolphins to perform tasks such as delivering equipment and performing surveillance, but the Soviets wanted their dolphins to get their fins bloody.
You can't see it, but they're all juicing on Kremlin-issued dolphin-roids.
Details of the Soviet Dolphin Division were shrouded in secrecy, and rumors that the dolphins were trained to kill were dismissed for years ... until 2000, when the Ukrainian Navy sold the remaining dolphins to Iran. As it turns out, the dolphins had been trained to perform kamikaze attacks on enemy submarines and impale enemy swimmers with harpoons.
It gets better:
Other Soviet dolphins were trained to jab swimmers with shark darts -- syringes full of pressurized CO2. When the CO2 was injected, pressure of 3,000 psi would enter the swimmer's body, forcing his guts out of his mouth like a tube of toothpaste.
Take that, puny capitalist organs.
Now, this raises the question whether the Americans had secretly trained their own killer dolphins. Rumors exist to this day of a "swimmer nullification program" involving just that. For instance, one European official said he spoke to American dolphin trainers who confirmed they worked with killer dolphins.
The U.S. Navy denies any such program, but in 1977, a Navy dolphin trainer, claimed American dolphins were armed with shark darts. A few years later, the former head of the Navy's marine mammal program sued Penthouse over an article claiming he attempted to sell torpedo dolphins to Latin American countries. The suit was dismissed from court, not because it was absurd but because the Navy felt that the case would release state secrets.
"The U.S. government neither confirms nor denies the existence of genetically engineered super-dolphins. But we are going to need another $40 million in tuna for 'migration pattern studies.' "
Secrets involving dolphin assassins? We can only assume yes.
The Spanish Civil War began in 1936, an event so important it isn't mentioned in a single American history class. During the war, anarchists took control of parts of southern Spain, driving the Nationalists out of their garrisons and into the hills. One group, led by Capt. Cortes, retreated into the monastery of Santa Maria de la Cabeza (translated literally, "Saint Maria of the Head").
Seen here saving the Earth.
And that's where the turkeys come in.
The Nationalists' defense of the monastery was an impressive feat that quickly turned ridiculous. You see, they were being resupplied via air drops, and somewhere along the line somebody decided that just using parachutes wasn't good enough for the future leaders of Spain. After some intense strategizing, pilots began attaching the supplies to live turkeys and dropping them out of their planes over the monastery.
The turkeys would flap their wings as they fell, slowing their descent while still managing to make their eventual pulverizing landing no less hilarious. Once the feathers cleared, the soldiers on the ground would have their supplies and a fresh turkey to eat.
"Be careful how you cut that turkey. It's filled with enough hand grenades to vaporize an Escalade."
Laugh all you want. It worked.
Sadly, the era of the edible parachute came to an end a year later when the monastery was overrun, something which apparently no amount of ornithological parachuting could prevent. Turkey parachutes faded into obscurity, joined by other, lesser-known animal-based countermeasures such as the crocodile drag chute and the hamster fallout shield.
Just as in many war-torn parts of the world, decades of war in Mozambique have left land mines scattered across the country, making large expanses of land too dangerous to develop.
So a guy named Bart Weetjens, thinking about how shitty it would be to walk through a minefield with a metal detector and hope for the best, decided that sending rats to do the job would be way better for all parties involved.
Except the rats.
OK, they're not just sending the rats out to explode the mines. You should be ashamed for thinking that.
No, the truth is actually weirder. Weetjens started a project that set about training the giant African pouched rat to smell explosives. The rats scamper across minefields, signaling when they find mines. Upon finding the mines, they scratch at the ground to alert their handlers, because as we all know, the best way to alert someone to the presence of a bomb is to slap at it with our hands. The handlers then reward the rat with food and remove the mine, and if all goes according to plan, nobody explodes.
Since they are native to Africa, the rats are less susceptible to local disease than, say, a bomb-sniffing dog. Also, the rats are in no danger because they don't weigh enough to trigger the mines. Their main drawback is that they are hard to control. Hell, how many of you even knew rats could be trained to do anything until just now?
Willard was more accurate than we ever dared dream.
But even trained, the rats don't run in a specific pattern, so their trainers had to develop a way to ensure that a rat sweeps an entire area. The rat wears a harness that's attached to a wire stretching across the minefield. When the rat has crossed from one side of the minefield to the other, the trainers move the wire over, and the rat crosses again: video of it here.
The rats are so effective that Weetjens' organization plans to clear 3.7 million square meters by 2014, after which it will be moving into Angola and the Congo. It has also shown that its rats can detect tuberculosis, which is just about the wackiest combination of jobs we at Cracked can imagine.
"I'm so sorry, sir ... you have tuberculosis. And a land mine hidden in your sternum."
Mares in Heat Used to Distract War Horses
So we already have an instance of one side distracting its opponent's war animals by turning its own into huge balls of fire. What in the hell could be more effective in trying to distract your enemy's horses? Well, let's put it this way: They're male horses.
Which brings us to Pharaoh Thutmose III. He was a badass, made no less awesome by the fact that his name kind of looked like "titmouse." He led Egypt on 17 military campaigns, ruled over the largest Egyptian empire and is considered one of the greatest pharaohs of all time.
Second only to Mumm Ra.
He was such a military genius that his enemies had to develop creative tactics to use against him. For example, the king of Kadesh, an ancient city in what is now Syria, knew that the pharaoh rode on a chariot pulled by stallions.
He hatched an idea basically theorizing that no matter what level of wartime mayhem is exploding around in all directions, no penis in history can resist a vagina. Targeting the stallions pulling the Egyptian chariots, the king of Kadesh set loose a mare in heat to create a "distraction."
The result was a total disruption of the pharaoh's battle formation, as horses presumably ran wildly in every direction with raging, flapping boners. Detailed battlefield reports from ancient history are hard to come by, so it's impossible to tell how often this particular tactic was used. Although it seems to have been somewhat widespread, considering it made it into the Bible.
If there's one thing we've learned from the Bible, it's that God loves great, flapping horse-cocks.
Seriously. The Song of Solomon: "You are as exciting, my darling, as a mare among Pharaoh's stallions." Which, as we at Cracked have pointed out before, is a song about poontastic sex.
Pigeons, and Pigeon-Hunting Falcons
In a time before wireless communication, when mail had to travel slowly on horseback, messenger pigeons were invaluable. For centuries, you could write up your note on a tiny piece of paper, and a trained pigeon would get it there -- this practice goes all the way back to the Persian Empire. Messenger pigeons were still common in World War I and were actually more reliable than telegrams.
"Can you read my pigeon-message now?
One bird, Cher Ami, delivered a message that saved almost 200 American soldiers who were cut off and under friendly artillery fire. Most impressive, it did so after being shot in the chest and losing a leg. We would have given up after we heard the first "bang." The story is kind of inspirational, if we just stopped there.
But during World War II, British intelligence discovered that their German counterparts were using pigeons to transmit messages across Europe. Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, hilariously declared himself head of the German National Pigeon Society without a single ounce of irony. He had pigeons dropped on Britain, where spies would attach messages to the pigeons' legs and send them to France.
"GET ME MY PIGEOOOONS!"
The British needed an answer to this, and none of them had heard of Alka-Seltzer. They created the Army Pigeon Service Special Section. Despite the name, the special section contained zero pigeons.
The unit was actually made up of peregrine falcons. Peregrine falcons are the fastest birds in the world. They hunt by flying high above their prey and diving down at up to 200 mph, striking their victims in midair and stunning or killing them on impact.
These falcons were trained to hunt and kill Himmler's Nazi messenger pigeons, which must have been pretty easy to do, considering peregrine falcons do the exact same thing in the wild without any sort of encouragement. They were released over the British Channel, and the result was something like this really gross video:
War is hell.
For more interesting uses of animals during times of war, check out 7 Insane Military Attempts To Weaponize Animals. Or learn about some critters that accomplished more than you ever will, in 7 Random Animals That Decided The Course of History.
The secrets don't stop here, learn more in the brand new Cracked.com book! And once you get that book, make sure you take a picture of yourself with it, then upload it to our Facebook fan page for a chance to win $250!
And stop by Linkstorm to see a monkey drinking its own pee.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infograpic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!