When we talk about the Great War (1914-1918), many of you will remember the fallen soldiers,
but did you know that the total loss of French equine populations reached 1,140,000 head?
Equidae (horses and mules) were mainly used as "engines". At the beginning of the conflict, the French army had only 170 motor vehicles in its ranks, so horses and mules were used for all other tasks such as: trade, mining, inland navigation, agriculture, travel, towing equipment,....
At the beginning of the War, the French army had only 190,000 heads, of which 100,000 were assigned to transport and other chores and the remaining 90,000 to cavalry. To complete its ranks, it mobilized 520,000 horses and mules to go out into the field. Although this requisition was a quantitative success, it was not a qualitative success. Indeed, during the selection of equidae there was no thorough control of the equidae, particularly on their age, their defects or whether the females were pregnant (i. e. fertilized and expecting a foal).
This superficial control resulted in many losses in the first three months alone, when 130,000 horses died in difficult conditions; while travelling long distances, for lack of food, injuries were as common as horses were rarely loosened, etc.
During the Great War, one in seven horses was wounded, one in three of those on the front line, and 40% of the wounded horses died. In addition, the concentration of mules and horses has led to health problems with the appearance of contagious diseases such as scabies.
The feeding system provided to the equines during the conflict was not adapted; for example, farm horses are used to eating hay and not oats, but hay is lacking... The army was therefore forced to part with 100,000 horses due to a lack of adequate food reserves.
Finally, the very rustic living conditions favour the appearance of the so-called overwork syndrome; malnourished, depressed, overworked, the horse is exhausted. In its acute form, the horse falls and does not get up.