Can’t resist a cat in uniform? Here’s a list of the armed forces’ most unexpected animal allies.
Apparently, police in Russia want to ride around on reindeer. The request by officers in the nation’s Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug region, reported by international news outlets last month, caused the world to raise its collective eyebrow. Perhaps the Russians, stationed in one of their country’s most remote outposts, had watched one too many marathons of The Santa Clause and its sequels, searing visions of flying, animatronic companions into their minds.
But this wasn’t a whim. The police in Yamalo-Nenets have apparently been requesting reindeer since 2012 because they’re the best way to access remote parts of the arctic where suspects flee on their own reindeer sledges. The existing police snowmobiles often break down, and they point out that there are already regulations for the care and use of reindeer in Russian police protocols. Similar programs, acknowledging local terrain and the adaptive advantage of these beasts, exist in Finland and Norway, bolstering the Russian force’s case for felt-antlered companions.
Much as we love to think of ourselves as the masters of nature, these little adaptive advantages have long enticed humans to work with animals. We’re familiar with the use of dogs, elephants, and horses, which stretches back over three thousand years (and we still find dogs’ noses useful for sniffing out narcotics). But as Russia’s reindeer prove, these are far from the only animals we call into service to police our streets or fight our battles. Some of the creatures we’ve used, and the usually good reasons we’ve decided to use them, as our partners are quite surprising.
In alphabetical order, find our armed forces’ most unexpected animal allies.