Wednesday, 11 January 2012
War Horse, Army Donkey, Military Mule
I was pleased to be alerted to this blog entry which features a National Library of Scotland photograph.
The photograph, taken during World War I, shows a man with his arm around a mule . On the back he has written about his animal companion: "She is very stupid but I am very fond of her."
Michael Morpurgo's 2007 moving book War Horse is due out as a Steven Spielberg film this month. It tells the story of farm horse Joey's journey through the battlefields of the First World War.
Morpurgo was inspired to write the book after reading that millions of horses perished on the Western Front. Used in the thick of battle in cavalry charges and for pulling artillery, horses, mules and donkeys were seen as more reliable than
Horses were very important in British India for the same reasons. The National Library's Medical History of British India website contains many digitised reports dedicated to the procurement of suitable breeding horses for serving the army. Horses imported from England often sickened and died en route. Those which survived were found to be unable to stand hard work in a tropical climate. In 1892 it was recorded that Indian-bred horses were hardier, with greater powers of endurance. Arab and Persian breeds had the same sought-after traits.
Horses, donkeys and mules who served in India, like their human counterparts perished from a variety of ailments and afflictions as this page shows.
Perhaps Michael Morpurgo would consider writing a book about one of these animals?
(Photograph is from the National Library of Scotland's Digital Gallery, First World War Official Photographs collection, image number 74549584)