Cat Rockets and Warmongering Dolphins: A History of Animals in War

PHOTO: An illustration from a manual by 16th century artillery master Franz Helm on display at the University of Pennsylvania library in Philadelphia, March 4, 2014.
Matt Rourke/AP Photo

Before there were tanks, there were elephants. And before there were rocket-propelled grenades, there were rocket cats.

Humans have long used animals as means to wage war. Historians at the University of Pennsylvania recently uncovered illustrations from the 1500s that show cats and doves with some kind of jetpacks strapped to their backs. The pictures were accompanied by instructions to use the cats to set fire to a castle or city.

The cats aren't the first animals to be used in warfare. Take a look at what other animal kingdom warriors have been recruited on the battlefield.

PHOTO: In this archival illustration, a war elephant of the Siamese Army is pictured.
Culture Club/Getty Images
Elephants in Battle

Armies in India, Persia and China all used elephants to wage war in ancient times. Alexander the Great famously used elephants during his own battles in the 4th Century. The animals charged at the enemy, creating a near-stampede, forcing opposing soldiers to get out of the way or turn and run.

PHOTO: In this stock image, two pigs are pictured.
Getty Images
War Pigs

The Romans used squealing, hungry pigs in battle to scare off opposing soldiers and their war elephants, sometimes dousing them in flammable substances and setting them on fire. The pigs would cause the elephants to bolt, leaving their own soldiers fumbling.

PHOTO: In this file photo, a baby giant African pouch rat tethered by a wire to its harness smells out a dummy land mine while being trained by a pioneering Belgian NGO on Oct. 27, 2010.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
Mine-Sniffing Rats

A more recent war-aid is the mine-sniffing rat, developed in the 1990s to help sniff out landmines in war-torn places. The rodents are strapped into harnesses and use their superior olfactory senses to sniff out mines and then scratch and point them out for humans to remove.

PHOTO: In this file photo, Sergeant Andrew Garrett watches K-Dog, a bottlenose dolphin attached to Commander Task Unit 55.4.3, leap out of the water while training near the USS Gunston Hall on March 18, 2003 in the Persian Gulf.
U.S. Navy/Getty Images
Navy Dolphins

The U.S. Navy attempted to train sharks to help its underwater operations, but quickly switched to dolphins in the 1960s. Now, dolphins are capable of completing dozens of underwater tasks for soldiers, including finding and recovering objects and protecting Navy divers from other prey.

PHOTO: An illustration from a manual by 16th century artillery master Franz Helm on display at the University of Pennsylvania library in Philadelphia, March 4, 2014.
Matt Rourke/AP Photo
Cat Rockets

UPenn researchers detailed their findings about cat rockets this week to the Associated Press, including details about how the cat rockets worked.

"Create a small sack like a fire-arrow," the directions in the historical 16th-century text read, according to the AP. "If you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited."

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