During World War I, Circus Animals Joined the War Effort

(Photo: University of Sheffield)

During World War I, the British military acquired most of the horses in the country and sent them off to war. That meant that other animals on the home front had to pick up the slack. Among them were circus animals, such as Lizzie the elephant.

William Sedgwick, a prestigious circus operator, owned Lizzie. But due to wartime travel restrictions and a very strained national economy, his circus, like most in the UK, had to shut down. So he loaned Lizzie to Thomas William Ward, a scrap metal merchant in Sheffield.

Lizzie was one of many circus elephants in the UK who plowed fields and pulled wagons while the horses were away.  When properly harnessed, Lizzie could pull weights that normally required three horses.

-via Marginal Revolution


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In the US, a lot of the mobilization efforts were also aided by the circus but more indirectly. The US Army copied a lot of their methodology for mobilizing by rail from circus trains that had come into prominence in the 1870s.
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