Horses

Learn About Equines That Served in World War I On New Web Pages

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Credits: Courtesy The Brooke
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Credits: Courtesy The Brooke
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LEXINGTON, Ky. — The United States World War One Centennial Commission and Brooke USA are launching new web pages presenting information and photos that document the role of American horses and mules who served in World War One.

The United States World War One Centennial Commission was created by an Act of Congress in 2013 to honor the many sacrifices America and its people made the fateful day it entered the war 100 years ago. The Commission is using the Centennial as a timely and essential opportunity to develop programs to educate today’s citizens, honor those who served, and commemorate the war’s centennial. Brooke USA began its partnership with the commission as a result of its Horse Heroes campaign, designed to honor and remember the wartime contributions of America’s horses and mules by raising funds to improve the welfare of today’s working equines.

Brooke USA was invited by the Centennial Commission to research and create web pages on the Commission’s website as a permanent record of the valuable role played by American equines in the war. These animals served, suffered, and died alongside their brave soldiers.

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The web pages present fascinating information about horses and mules during the war and all aspects of their daily life. By partnering with the Centennial Commission, Brooke USA believes it will expand global understanding and recognition to honor the incredible role these horses and mules played in the outcome of the war, as well as educate people on how their legacy still supports working equines today.

Carefully brought to life by Brooke USA volunteer, lifetime horse enthusiast and avid historian Jo Ellen Hayden, the new web pages offer a very in-depth look at multiple facets of World War One history.

“To be asked to research and write history for an organization as prestigious as the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission is a very great honor and I was thrilled to commemorate the use of horses and mules in World War One for their website in partnership with Brooke USA’s Horse Heroes campaign,” Hayden explained. “Although a historian by training, I spent most of my career working for the Navy Department. Thus, I grew to love the military and our service men and women.”

During the war, animals were a commodity, and just as armed forces routinely left hardware and vehicles behind rather than pay to transport them back to the U.S., the horses and mules were disposed of wherever they happened to be at the end of the war. Some were sold to be slaughtered, as human consumption of horse meat was common in some parts of Europe. Others were sold as farm or utility animals to the local populace. At least eight million horses and mules were used by all the various countries involved, and of those, at least 1.2 million came from the United States. Only about 200 equines returned to the U.S.

Brooke USA traces its roots to Dorothy Brooke, who rescued 5,000 former war horses and mules who were left behind in Cairo by the British Army after the war. The charity subsequently named in her honor, Brooke, has over the past 84 years become the world’s largest international equine welfare charity. Brooke USA raises funds to support Brooke’s equine welfare programs in some of the poorest countries on earth.

“When people are aware of the past, the present becomes more meaningful to them,” Hayden said in support of the cause. “The horses that Dorothy Brooke rescued in Egypt in 1931 had brands that identified them as having been owned by the British army. Yet, that army could not protect them from the working conditions imposed by their new owners in Egypt. Those new owners were in large part ignorant of how to care for their animals, and were living very difficult lives themselves. It is no different in the countries where Brooke works today.”

“For Brooke USA, the memory of World War One’s horses and mules inspires our work every day — we have never forgotten, and we are putting that memory to a very practical use by improving the lives of working equines and their human families every day, every year, all over the developing world,” she said.

For the new web pages, Hayden included many facets of information a history buff or horse lover may want to access in their research of the war and its equines. The site features general horse information as well as extensive background information on the war’s location, history and what life was like during that time period. Viewers will find topics such as Training for War, Harness and Saddlery, the Cavalry, Purchasing and Shipping, and much more. The Horse Heroes web pages even have a special section devoted to mules, whose hybrid horse and donkey lineage made them extremely hardy and useful in the difficult battlefield environment.

“On the site there are hundreds of photographs, perhaps the single most inclusive collection of photos of U.S. horses and mules in World War One ever collected in one place,” Hayden said. “We also have some motion picture film, taken one hundred years ago, that will eventually be available on the site.”

Both Brooke USA and the United States World War One Centennial Commission hope the new site will encourage people to learn more about their country’s history and how they may help equines in similar devastating situations today by supporting Brooke’s work abroad. Today Brooke USA honors Dorothy’s war horse veterans by helping working horses, donkeys, and mules in multiple countries. By continuing to educate owners on sustainable practices, proper nutrition, and veterinary care, with a staff of over 900 equine professionals, Brooke improves the lives of millions of animals, benefiting millions of people who depend on them, each year.

To see the new World War One Horse Heroes web pages and learn more about the United States Centennial Commission, visit: www.ww1cc.org/horses

To learn more about Brooke USA, visit: www.brookeusa.org.

About Brooke USA

Brooke USA's mission is to significantly improve the welfare of horses, donkeys and mules and the people they serve throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America by raising funds and responsibly directing them to the areas of greatest need.

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