Long sea voyages can be lonely, which is why sailors throughout history have taken animals aboard. Dogs and cats are the most popular companions on land and water, but Britain’s Royal Navy has many other creatures that have joined its ranks.
Some of the most memorable of this maritime menagerie are highlighted by Steven Gray at The Guardian. The animals that traveled with the fleets became so numerous that the Royal Navy’s training center on Whale Island, Portsmouth, built a “sailors’ zoo” in 1893.”In 1935, there were lions in spacious cages, marsupials in grassy paddocks, and birds in aviaries,” Gray writes.
One such mascot was Barbara, a polar bear who had been rescued from an ice floe near Greenland during World War II. Because it’s dangerous to keep a polar bear alive near humans, the Navy removed her to Whale Island, where she died before the zoo closed in 1940. She still rests there, buried alongside other mascots. marines such as Jack the parrot, who survived a cyclone, a black bear named Amelia and other animals.
The animals served in all branches of the military, but were especially popular with many navies, according to The book by Arnold Arluke and Robert Bogdan Beauty and the Beast: Human-Animal Relationships Revealed in Real Photographs. Some of the mascots were smuggled on board, others were gifts from foreign governments or domestic municipalities and were inaugurated with “presentation ceremonies where the mascot made the transition from land to sea, from civilian life to life in the Navy,” the authors write.
Although sailors enjoyed the company of animals, life aboard a ship must not have been so pleasant for the animals themselves. More recent pairings of marines and animal mascots have left non-humans happier and safer on earth, as is the recent adoption of a lemur crew named Artful.
Britain was not the only country to have naval mascots. Predictably, bears were popular on American ships during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential terms, Arluke and Bogdan note in their book. Goats have long been associated with the navy as a food source because they were smaller than cows and less picky about their own food. But as the ships’ food supplies improved, the goats became pets. There are several stories about the first goat to attend the Army-Navy match, but after a midshipman recruited one named “El Cid” off the USS New York to attend an 1893 match, lore stayed.
“Bill the Goat” is still an official mascot of the US Navy, although the animal (or rather one of its successors) remains ashore today and represents the officers playing in the field at the football game. Army-Navy.
Currently, US Navy ships are goat-free. Together with other animals, they were banned. A captain who ignored regulations and kept a three-year-old dwarf goat named Charlie aboard his missile cruiser apparently lost his job in the spring of 2015. Monkeys, bears, dogs, cats and others spared the distress of neighborhoods loved ones and seasickness would probably thank those responsible for the change. Like sailors who no longer have to clean up after navy animal mascots.