So...random-ish question, can animals be used in combat? I don't mean like horses which obviously can be used but more like...Say someone trained tigers and brought them into combat, how effective would they be? Could they hurt people through armour? Are likely to be easy to deal with?
There were no tigers ever bred for war to my knowledge. Closest thing I know to any great beast used like that would be in Egypt. It was said that at the Battle of Kadesh, Ramses II had a lion which was used in battle. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s true, records from that far back are sketchy. But that would be terrifying in the
Part of the problem is training and control. Animals can respond to command, but they’re not intelligent the way humans are. When it comes to non-domesticated animals, it’s even harder to train them to fight in war. To not be killed, timing and withdrawal are important, especially since animals usually can’t wear much armor.
Commonly, animals were used as mounts, with the horse as the obvious outlier. Elephants too, were used in war as mounts, as an ultra-heavy cavalry that could batter through any formation. Alexander the Great fought them effectively by using the long sarissa of his father. Interestingly enough the Romans found that a useful tool against elephants were other animals. The high-pitched squealing of pigs and horned rams could disorient and enrage elephants, who would trample their own soldiers and wreak havoc upon friendly troops. The Romans also coated the pigs in pitch and lit them aflame, causing the flaming pigs to bolt in terror toward the enemy. Elephants, already not liking the sound of the squealing pigs, also get enraged when in the presence of fire.
Now, if you’re looking at fighting animals, the most common one was the dog. Dog units formed a cornerstone of armies since antiquity, and big dogs were used to either spook horses or pounce on knights, either way knocking them off the horse and disabling them (falling off a horse in full armor will take the wind out of you right quick). As time progressed and firearms improved, the dog saw less use, but don’t think that means that dogs weren’t used in warfare after that. Even in modern times, dogs were useful as scouts and especially as sentries. Many dogs saw action well into the age of gunpowder and modern weaponry, and dogs formed a key component of armies even into the 20th century.
In the modern day, animals are used more for therapy and morale than for actual combat, but they make a great difference. Lots of strays get picked up by lonely or sad GI’s at FOB’s, and recovering veterans often benefit from therapy dogs.
Thanks for the question, Anon.
SomethingLikeALawyer, Hand of the King