This year marks the 100th anniversary of the USA’s entry into World War 1, when a million American horses and mules were shipped to Europe for the war effort.
These equine heroes are being honored by charity Brooke USA, with the motto “One million horses, one million heroes, one million dollars” underlining its aim to raise $1 million to help today’s working horses.
War horses carried men to battle and wounded men to safety. They carried food, water, medical supplies, ammo and guns to the front lines. “Their contribution was enormous, but so was their suffering,” Brooke USA says.
About eight million equines are estimated to have died in WW1, and the horses and mules who survived the war were later sold to be slaughtered or abandoned by their armies on foreign soil.
In 1930, Dorothy Brooke rescued 5000 former war horses with the help of a British newspaper appeal, which raised the equivalent of £20,000 in today’s money.
She wrote in her diary: “Out here, in Egypt, there are still many hundreds of old army horses sold of necessity at the cessation of the war. They are all over 20 years of age by now, and to say that the majority of them have fallen on hard times is to express it very mildly.”
Aware many more working horses, donkeys and mules were in need, she set up the Brooke Hospital for Animals in 1934 and opened the “Old War Horse Memorial Hospital” in Cairo, which remains operational today.
“These old horses were, many of them, born and bred in the green fields of England – how many years since they have seen a field, heard a stream of water or a kind word in English?”
Today, the charity named in Dorothy Brooke’s honor is the world’s largest international equine welfare charity. Last year alone, it reached two million horses, donkeys and mules in the developing world with programs to improve their welfare.
While horses no longer serve the military in the massive numbers of former years, today there are about 100 million equines who are carrying out many of the same jobs as they did 100 years ago. They are also suffering similar hardships leading to chronic suffering and high mortality as their military forebears, while working to support 600 million people in the developing world.
It is estimated that 80% of those working equines are suffering from preventable problems such as exhaustion, dehydration, lameness, heat stress, diseases and injuries.
“We believe that the best way to honor yesterday’s war horses and mules is by helping today’s working equines,” said Brooke USA Chairman Dr David Jones.
“Brooke can do a tremendous amount to improve the welfare of these important animals through our Horse Heroes campaign. We’re asking anyone who appreciates the contributions that American horses made to the war effort to respond by donating in memory of those animals – just one dollar for each animal who suffered and died in service to our country in World War One.”