How many horses died in World War 1?

Soldiers pay tribute to the horses killed during WW1

To the question of how many horses died in World War I, you will see a plethora of answers most of which are on the internet. The numbers are inconsistent. The top pick by the search engines states that a total 8 million horses died on from all participant countries in World War 1. I can’t verify the figure because I can’t access the website.

Soldiers pay tribute to the horses killed during WW1

Soldiers pay tribute to the horses killed during WW1. I believe that the photo is in the public domain.

Dr Desmond Morris in his book Horsewatching states that 1 million British horses were sent to the front of which only 62,000 “were ever to see British soil again”. Those that escaped the bombs and shells were rewarded at the end of the war by being fed to prisoners of war or sold to farmers on the continent “to be converted into fertiliser”.

The Guardian newspaper reports that the RSPCA estimates that 484,143 horses, mules, camels and bullocks were killed in British service between 1914 and 1918. A community forum website tells me that “several million horses were killed in World War 1”. They estimate that the total number of German army horses “maintained during the entire war period averaged 1,100,000. This is a very similar number to the one quoted by Desmond Morris from the British side. It’s probably fair to assume that a similar number were killed. If that is true then up to 2 million horses approximately were killed on both sides in World War I. This is obviously a quarter of the figure quoted in the first paragraph. But this figure does not take into account Russian horses and those of Norway and the USA. USA used about 14,000 mules as pack pack animals.

Morris states that in a single day’s fighting 7,000 horses were killed. This is probably a reference to the battle of Verdun. The website says that on the British side a million horses and mules were used and more than 400,000 of them were killed.

As you can see the figures vary. I can’t find precision on numbers and this is because, I’m sure, people don’t know. The horse was, if we are honest, abused and used in a nasty human war. I’m sure nobody was counting horse deaths. Therefore there has to be estimates. My conclusion, on my research, would be that about 2 million horses were killed in total on the British and German sides to which you could add probably about 50,000-100,000 from other countries. But that’s a guess. If you know better please leave a comment.