Appreciation for ANZAC Animals

As preparations get underway to commemorate ANZAC Day,’s in-house vet, Dr Mark Perissinotto reflects upon the great services rendered by our servicemen and women; as well as the animals that served alongside them.

“Since World War One, animals have provided an array of services to the Australian Defence Forces,” Dr Mark said. 
“As we remember our brave soldiers this ANZAC Day, and commemorate their sacrifices, let us also include animals of war in war, in our thoughts.”
Historically, many animals have proved invaluable to our armed forces, in part, due to their unique physical characteristics. Camels, horses and donkeys have transported both soldiers and equipment; dogs tracked soldiers and carrier pigeons sent messages; some animals have even acted as early warning systems.
In both World Wars, cats, monkeys, turtles, squirrels and other animals became mascots of various ships, camps and battalions.
“In my personal experience as a veterinarian, pets are a source of comfort for their owners,” Dr Mark said.
“Evidently, this has long been the case; as photographs held by the Australian War Memorial depict a variety of animal wartime mascots, throughout history.”
Examples of these notable animals include:
  • ‘Jack’ the rooster, was found to be a better guard than a dog because he attacked any stranger who entered unit lines; in northern France, 1917.
  • A German message dog was renamed ‘Digger’ by the 13th Battalion in France, 1918.  
  • Camels were mounted in the Middle East, 1917, by the 3rd (ANZAC) Battalion, Imperial Camel Corps.
  • A cat, which could be found, peering from the muzzle of a six inch gun; was the mascot of light cruiser HMAS Encounter.
“These mascots are a testament to the special bond humans forge with animals; and prove that animals also deserve a mention this ANZAC Day,” Dr Mark said.

The contribution of animals has been officially recognised by the Australian War Memorial since 2009; when a statue was erected to honour animals of war. The Department of Veterans affairs also produced a book at that time; that portrayed the services of animals in war, without which many Australians would have lost their lives.

“Animals have played a significant role in Australian wartime history. It would be great to see the community spare a thought for these furry veterans this ANZAC Day,” Dr Mark said.

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