Animal IQ

Dolphins and Pigeons Have Gone to War Alongside Humans

When you think of animals used for military purposes, what do you think of? Maybe horses carrying knights into battle? Hannibal's elephants crossing the Alps? Dr. Evil's sharks with lasers on their heads? Okay, that last one is ridiculous. Obviously only dolphins could be armed for war. Don't believe us? Check out the video below where you can literally see dolphins escorting an assault ship to the Middle East.

Everything's Deader Under The Sea

It really does sound like something out of science fiction — and not good science fiction — but as our friends at Animalogic inform us, the Soviet Union kicked off the trend by training a pod of dolphins to distinguish Soviet subs from their American counterparts. Per standard Cold War procedure, the Americans obviously followed suit — and today, the US Navy's fleet of 75 dolphins patrols the water around valuable battleships in search of underwater mines. If you're worried that these dolphins are unknowingly blundering into un-tripped explosives, don't: as the video explains, they've actually trained the marine mammals how to safely identify the mines and mark them on a map. As for the dolphin soldiers allegedly outfitted with guns and armor in Crimea, well, there's really no way to confirm or deny that rumor just yet.

Full Metal Pigeon

Dolphins aren't our only bestial brother-in-arms. Animalogic is back again with everything you could ever want to know about pigeons in times of war. In fact, they've been at it for much longer. Since at least the 6th century B.C.E., pigeons have been carrying messages behind enemy lines, and helped Genghis Khan on his unstoppable path to global domination. They kept it up all the way through both World Wars, and some even went home with medals of honor for their bravery.

How, exactly, pigeons are capable of such excellent navigation is still something of a mystery, but as Danielle Dufault explains, they likely have several backup systems built-in to keep them on the right path. That might explain how and why they were almost used as all-organic missile guidance systems.

Fair warning — if you don't want to read about pigeons in mortal peril, turn back now. But the way that system worked (and it did work) was that each missile was loaded with a pigeon pilot who was trained to peck at a target on a screen. As long as the pecks hit the center of the screen, the missile stayed on course. But if the pigeon pecked at either side, it would divert itself to re-center the target. Ultimately, the military didn't bite, but it's totally possible that the world's first "drones" might have actually been piloted by birds on a suicide mission.

Dolphins with Guns on Their Heads

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Dolphins have to consciously remember to breathe, so they can never fully sleep. Instead, half of their brains sleep at a time. 00:35

  2. Dolphins will herd a school of fish into a sand bar, then beat their tails against the ground to stir up silt. When the fish attempt to flee the silt circle, the dolphins are ready in waiting. 02:38

  3. During the Cold War, the Soviets and Americans both had dolphin programs. Military dolphins are still used, primarily to detect mines. 05:25

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Exploding Pigeons were almost the Future of Warfare

Written By Curiosity Staff August 24, 2017