Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Julia Irwin, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

K. Stephen Prince, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Belohlavek, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Darcie Fontaine, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rebecca Zarger, Ph.D.


Agriculture, Animals, Equine, Military, Veterinary, World War I


This dissertation charts the significant, if understudied, history of American horses during the era of World War I, from roughly 1914 to 1919. Its chapters trace how the US Army acquired, used, cared for, and ultimately demobilized horses over the course of that conflict. Beginning with their acquisition, via either an Army Horse Breeding Program or a complicated buying process, horses faced a complex introduction into military service. Life for these animals did not get any easier once they reached the European front. Although the US military was beginning to replace horses with motor trucks and tractors, horses remained central to American warfare in these years, used mainly for their hauling capabilities. Yet, unlike their metal counterparts, horses were “living machines,” which suffered from a lack of food, overwork, and diseases. Shortly before the United States entered the Great War in 1917, in an effort to improve the conditions of these animals, US military leaders established the US Army Veterinary Corps, reflecting the influence of professionalization and importance of horse care. After the armistice, the horses’ experience varied. While some ended up on the French butcher block, many found a renewed presence in recreational pursuits and lived on in soldier’s memories. As it tells this story of American horses in the First World War, this dissertation argues for the importance of studying horses as a part of the Great War, technological changes, veterinary medicine, and human animal interactions in the military. While their contributions to the war effort were mainly relegated to logistical support, this dissertation demonstrates that the horses’ story goes beyond their physical horse power.