Book Review: Soldiers and Their Horses: Sense, Sentimentality and the Soldier-Horse Relationship in The Great War


by Jane Flynn

New York: Routledge, 2020. Pp. x, 168. Illus., tables, notes, biblio., index. $155.00. ISBN: 036789470X

Horses and Men in the Great War

In her first book Dr. Flynn, an independent scholar who writes and blogs on history and horses, has done an impressive job of telling the story of the horse in the British Army from the Boer War through the end of the Great War. This was a period that witnessed significant progress in the treatment of military horses.

Prior to the Boer War the British Army had been very negligent in its treatment of horses. Flynn notes that the army was surprisingly resistant to the establishment of an independent veterinary service, which did not occur until 1881. And even then, in her discussion of the early history of the army’s veterinary service, we that it lack influence and the army continued to neglect an adequate remount service. The result was horrendous losses of horseflesh during the South African War, due to a not only to poor procedures for recruiting horses, but also in the lack of proper care for them.

Flynn weaves together military requirements for horses, the development of an effective remount service, the linked questions of how to train horses and riders, the rise of Britain’s animal rights movement, problems of maintaining the feeding, health, and well being of the animals, and “wastage”. Of particular interest is Flynn’s look at the moral issues related to the military use – exploitation – of horses (and other animals) and the soldier-steed relationship against the brutal mathematics of war.

A volume in the Routledge series “Studies in Cultural History”, Soldiers and their Horses is an excellent book both for those interested in the Great War and those with an interest in the military horse.



Note: Soldiers and their Horses is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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