Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dogs at sea

Venus the bulldog steering the HMS Vansittart. Image source:
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185297
Cats at sea might not come as a big surprise - they are excellent hunters and good at keeping pest populations at bay. Dogs have also been popular, and many four-legged marines have served in the United States sea services.

The dogs build morale and provide relief from the monotony of being at sea for months at a time. They have also served a practical function through warning for dangers, and leading patrols onto foreign shores.

On the image to the right, Venus, the naval mascot of British Destroyer Vansittart sets the course. The photo is from 1941.

In the US, the English Bulldog has been a mascot of the marines since the first world war. It was unofficial until 1922, when a dog named Jiggs got the official duty. 

Nowadays, the mascot is called Chesty. It is always a pure bred English bulldog. The name stays the same for generations, and a long line of Chestys have gotten their name from legendary Lt Gen Lewis B 'Chesty' Puller Jr who served in World War II and the Korean War. He is thus far the only Marine to be awarded five Navy Crosses.

If you want to see more dogs at sea, the US Naval Institute has an excellent collection of old images here.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

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