How Dogs Have Been Used in Warfare throughout History

Dogs are known as man's best friend, but they could almost be considered a form of human technology with all of the specialized breeds that mankind has come up with over the millennia. Not only have dogs provided companionship and protection, but they have also been involved in human warfare since ancient times. Below is an intriguing look into the role of war dogs on the battlefield for thousands of years, from the Egyptians to the modern day U.S. military.

Ancient History

The first recorded use of war dogs was in 600 BC by Ephesus. The Ephesians warred with the Magnesians, who used hounds. The Magnesian horsemen were accompanied by war dogs used against the Ephesian phalanxes. These dogs were deployed as a preliminary attack that would leave the Ephesian frontline soldiers softened, allowing the Magnesians to charge. The breed and type of dog used are unknown.

Greco-Roman Era

The Romans utilized a breed of dog known as the Molossian, a proto-mastiff bred for combat. Their use was adopted by the Romans after they colonized the Greeks. The Molossian is the ancestor of modern dog breeds such as the Great Pyrenees, Great Dane and Rottweiler.

The Middle Ages and the New World

When Spain invaded the Americas, it was no surprise that they engaged the native population in war. The Spanish conquistadors used dogs in combat, dressing them in padded armor and spiked collars. The type of dog used was a mixture of mastiff and deerhound. These war hounds were used to create a route as enemy formations were split apart.

World War Era

If you earned a degree in military history, you might know that in Europe, dogs were often used as messengers or deliveries. The Belgians used these dogs to carry their Maxium guns, a type of early machine gun. The French and Dutch also used dogs in their armies, primarily for transport. The Soviet Red Army used dogs to bring their wounded in for medical treatment.

Modern Era

Police in the United States and United Kingdom use dogs in their military. However, they are not used for frontline combat, but rather for patrolling, scouting, guarding, and law enforcement. These military working dogs are outfitted with cameras and protective vests and relay information to their handlers. They are also used to detect explosives or intimidate prisoners of war. The type of breed often used is the German Shepherd.


Dogs are an amazingly versatile animal. Who knows? Your dog may have had ancestors who fought in human wars generations ago. Whether in logistics or on the front lines, dogs are no stranger to fighting the battles of their human masters.

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