From regular pets like dogs and cats, to livestock like goats and pigs, to bizarre wild animals like elephants, tigers, and kangaroos, army mascots have come all shapes and sizes.
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Wojtek The Bear
Wojtek was a Syrian brown bear cub that the Polish II Corps bought at a train station in Iran during World War II. The bear traveled with the unit through the Middle East and Italy. He would carry and guard ammunition for the unit and was even taught to salute. After the war, Wojtek lived out the rest of his life in the Edinburgh Zoo.Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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Jack The Chicken
The Australian Army’s 2nd Divisional Signals Company had a chicken mascot named Jack. Members of the unit had bought Jack in Egypt in 1916 when he was still a chick. Jack was reportedly a better guard than a dog, and would attack any stranger who entered the unit’s lines. Australian War Memorial
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Stubby was a Boston Terrier who became the mascot for the American 102nd Infantry, 26th Division during World War I. Stubby was trained to warn his unit of upcoming mustard gas and shelling, and could locate wounded soldiers stranded in no-man’s land.Wikimedia Commons
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Smoky The Yorkie
Smoky was a Yorkshire Terrier that was found by American GIs in a foxhole in New Guinea during World War II. She accompanied her owner of the 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Recon Squadron on multiple recon and parachuting missions. Smoky became famous after the war, appearing on TV variety shows and entertaining patients at veterans hospitals. Wikimedia Commons
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Lin Wang The Elephant
Lin Wang was an elephant adopted by Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese Expeditionary Force during the Second Sino-Japanese War, a part of the larger World War II conflict. Lin Wang provided a number of services for the unit, including moving logs and transporting supplies. After the war, Lin was transported to Taipei Zoo where he lived the rest of his life as a major attraction with his lifelong mate, Malan.Wikimedia Commons
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Timothy The Tortoise
Timothy was discovered aboard a Portuguese privateer ship in 1854 by the British Navy. A female tortoise, she was named “Timothy” because, at the time, people did not know how to properly identify the sex of tortoises. She served aboard a number of British ships, including the HMS Queen, during the Crimean War. She retired from military service in 1892 and spent the rest of her long life on the estate of the Earl of Devon until her death in 2004. Wikimedia Commons
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Winnie The Bear
Winnie the bear was the mascot for the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps during World War I. She was bought by veterinarian Harry Colebourn at a train stop on his way to deploy. She was named Winnipeg after the town her first owner was from. After the war, Winnie was kept at the London Zoo. There, she inspired the son of Winnie-the-Pooh author A.A. Milne to name his stuffed bear “Winnie.”Manitoba Provincial Archives/Wikimedia Commons
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Ferdie The Pygmy Flying Phalanger
Ferdie was a mascot for the Australian RAAF Spitfire squadron during World War II. This small marsupial was brought to the unit by one of the officers, Robert Addison, from Bathurst Island. Like many military animals, Ferdie drank alcohol, but stopped after he once accidentally fell into a glass of beer. John Thomas Harrison/Wikimedia Commons
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Nils Olav is the name given to the penguin mascots of the Kings Guard of Norway who lives in the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland. The guards adopted the penguin as their mascot in 1972 during a visit to Edinburgh for the annual Military Tattoo. The tradition has stuck and each time the Guards visit the city, Nils Olav is promoted and invited to inspect the troops once more. Nils Olav III, the current mascot pictured here, was awarded a knighthood in 2008.Wikimedia Commons
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Taffy The IV
Taffy the IV was a goat bred as a mascot for the 2nd Battalion of the Welsh Regiment, joining the unit in 1906. Taffy survived World War I, participating in the Retreat from Mons and the First Battle of Ypres. For this service, he was awarded the 1914 Star. Soon after, Taffy died in Bethune, France in 1915 from heart failure.Wikimedia Commons
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Oskar the cat, nicknamed “Unsinkable Sam,” began his military career with the German navy aboard the Bismarck during World War II. When that ship was sunk by a British vessel, a crew member from the latter ship rescued Oskar from the waters and kept him aboard. Oskar stayed on that ship until it was torpedoed by a German U-boat soon after. He was then transferred to an aircraft carrier. That ship was also sunk by a U-boat, and Oskar survived by clinging to a floating plank. His survival of these sinkings gave Oskar the nickname “Unsinkable Sam.” He was then sent to the U.K. to live in a seaman’s home until the end of the war.Pinterest
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The mascot of the 5th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment is a 10-year-old bengal tiger named Quintus Rama. The unit first recieved a tiger as their mascot when they returned from the Vietnam War in 1967 due to the tiger-themed heraldry their unit had adopted during the conflict. Quintus Rama currently resides at Crocodylus Park but frequently visits the unit.Wikimedia Commons
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Tirpitz The Pig
Tirpitz was a navy mascot during World War II, first with the German army, then with the British. Tirpitz was initially stationed aboard the SMS Dresden, but after it was sunk by the British in the Battle of the Falkland Islands, he swam over to the HMS Glasgow. Soldiers brought the pig onto their ship where he became their new mascot. After the war, Tirpitz was auctioned off as pork for a charity auction, and his stuffed head still stands in the Imperial War Museum in England.Imperial War Museum
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Kangaroo Of The Siege Brigade
During World War I and World War II, many Australian units had kangaroo mascots they brought with them. This kangaroo was the mascot for the Siege Brigade, 36th Heavy Artillery Brigade, Royal Australian Artillery. He was presented to the West Australian Section of the Siege Brigade and taken to England and France. He did not survive very long in service, as he was affected by the cold of the 1915-1916 winter and was always made uneasy by nearby dogs.Australian War Memorial
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Eustace The Mouse
Eustace was the mouse mascot for the crew members of the British Landing Craft Tank 947 during World War II. He joined the tank on its involvement of the invasion of Normandy Beach on D-Day.Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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In 1917, three years after the beginning of World War I, the United States entered the fight. That spring, American troops set sail from the Eastern seaboard to join the Allied front line in France. Along with them was a small Boston Terrier named Stubby, the mascot of the 102nd Infantry who had been smuggled onto the boat by a member of the unit named John Robert Conroy.
Conroy had befriended the pup months back during his military training on the Yale grounds and named the dog Stubby for his small tail.
When Stubby arrived in Europe, he quickly became an invaluable member of the 102nd. Stubby would warn soldiers of approaching artillery shells and poison gas, using his keen sense of smell to detect the attacks early. He would also seek out and find wounded American soldiers in no man’s land and would bark until someone came to rescue them.
Stubby even managed to capture a German spy, attacking him and holding him down until soldiers could arrive. For his bravery, Stubby was promoted to the rank of sergeant, making him the first dog to be given a rank in the United States Armed Forces.
After the war, Stubby didn’t give up on his heroism. He continued to entertain and delight patients at veterans hospitals. Later, he would become the team mascot for the Georgetown Hoyas.
As was the case with Stubby, humans have been bringing animals along into their wars for as long as there have been wars. The first animals used in war were likely active participants: war horses, war dogs, and other animals literally used to wage war. However, as the centuries wore on, military animals have come not to be used as fighters, but as companions and pets.
These animals became mascots of the units that they traveled with, raising the spirits of the soldiers as well as comforting them in hardship. These animals often came to represent the unit, and became an emotional rallying point for its members.
From dogs and cats to goats and pigs to elephants, tigers, and kangaroos, see some of the most incredible army mascots of all time in the gallery above.