The use of animals in warfare dates all the way back to ancient times.
Throughout history, a shocking variety of animals has been utilized on the battlefield. From carrier pigeons to war elephants, and trained dolphins to attack dogs, animals have been used in extremely innovative ways during human conflicts.
In many ways, one might argue that placing animals in such danger is cruel. On the other hand, militarized animals have saved the lives of a great number of people.
They often perform tasks that humans cannot. In the process, they have assisted in the cessation of many bloody conflicts. It's a complicated yet fascinating issue.
Recently, this topic came to the forefront of discussion because of the current conflict in Ukraine. When Russia annexed Crimea in March, it also seized Ukraine's militarized dolphins.
Russia now plans to use these dolphins for its own purposes, despite demands for their return from the Ukrainian government.
Apparently, the dolphin program dates back to the Cold War and trains the animals to distinguish between friendly and enemy submarines, to attack enemies with knives attached to their heads and to act as suicide bombers.
While this might sound like a ridiculous headline, Ukraine is not the only country that has used dolphins militarily.
In fact, the United States has 75 of its own battle dolphins stationed in San Diego. The US used dolphins in both Vietnam and Iraq.
While the Russian program seems to use dolphins for sinister purposes, the US Navy maintains that it has only ever used dolphins and other marine animals (sea lions) for mine recovery and retrieval and non-lethal swimmer interdiction.
Whatever happens to the Ukrainian dolphins, let's hope they remain safe and healthy.
Some actually believe that American and Russian dolphins might eventually face off in the Black Sea. Even if this doesn't happen, it sounds like an incredible idea for a movie.
Along with dolphins, here are some other examples of animals being using militarily.
Man's best friend has been used in warfare for centuries. From ancient Egypt to the present day, dogs have served valiantly and loyally.
In his memoirs, Napoleon once wrote,
I walked over the battlefield and among the slain, a poodle killed bestowing a last lick upon his dead friend's face. Never had anything on any battlefield caused me a like emotion.
Throughout the War on Terror, canines have played a vital role in assisting US troops.
Dogs have often been used in the extremely dangerous tasks of sniffing out roadside bombs, clearing buildings and tracking enemies.
With their service, they have saved countless lives. Today, there are around 2,700 dogs working in the military.
While it might sound insane, bees have actually been taught by scientists to sniff out bombs. Researchers in New Mexico claim they have trained bees to stick out their proboscis -- the tube used to extract nectar -- whenever they smell chemicals used in bombs.
While these bees haven't been sent into the field yet, it's still quite incredible what researchers were able to do, and it could save lives one day. Science is awesome.
Pigeons have been used as messengers and for surveillance in a number of conflicts.
During World War I, a carrier pigeon named Cher Ami -- French for "dear friend" -- became a hero for a group of American soldiers.
Despite being hit by an enemy bullet and losing a leg, this brave pigeon delivered a message that saved the lives of 194 soldiers in the 77th Infantry Division.
For his outstanding service, Cher Ami was awarded the Croix de Guerre -- a medal given by the French and Belgian to allies for heroism.
Cher Ami died in 1919, but his body is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
In 1942, a bear cub was sold to a group of Polish soldiers in Iran. They named the bear Wojtek. These soldiers were part of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps and would go on to fight in World War II.
Wojtek was raised by these soldiers until he was fully grown and became like family to them in the process. Apparently, he was very fond of both cigarettes and beer. He was raised by humans, and in many ways, he seemed to think he was human.
Eventually, Wojtek officially became an enlisted soldier and served on the frontlines in WWII. He helped keep up the morale of his fellow soldiers and was also used to carry shells during battles in Italy.
His story is absolutely incredible and a testament to the fact that animals have souls.
After the war, Wojtek lived the rest of his days in Scotland at the Edinburgh Zoo. In 2011, the story of Wojtek's life was turned into a documentary.
The question of whether or not animals like Wojtek should serve in war is still open for discussion. Obviously, as animals can't speak for themselves, there are some ethical issues that must be considered.
Regardless, it's apparent that animals have an immense capacity for heroism and display great compassion for humans. Humankind could learn a great deal from their example.
Top Photo Courtesy: Flicker, Photos via wikimedia