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Animal Warfare: How Animals Aided in Ancient Battles

Greetings, my friends!

This week, I will keep things short and sweet, as I am Diving deep into some special tales to share with you next week. In the mean time, Carlisle, Gibbs, and I have gathered some information on how animals and insects aided armies across civilizations in ancient warfare. Horses and elephants, as seen in game, are some of the most noteworthy animals to stand in the frontlines of war, but would you be surprised to hear that snakes and dogs were also vital weapons for many armies? What about critters such as the assassin bug, or scorpions? While I gathered this information, I came to realize, even the smallest creatures could cause some of the most lethal damages from armies. Unexpected, don’t you think? Lets take a quick look at what we’ve got.


Man’s best friends were used at war as a method of attack, protection, and companionship. These furry creatures were some of the most dynamic animals to participate at war, as they were incredibly versatile. For example, dogs could alert their owners when intruders were near, they protected food supplies such as livestock and crops, and they were unleashed against the enemy at the start of battles to disrupt the frontlines so cavalry could easily break through and deepen their attack.


These six legged lethal creatures were used by armies to launch surprise attacks against their enemies. Scorpions were placed inside of terracotta vases which were filled to the brim by these creepy crawlies. These vases were launched directly at enemy troops, where they would break on impact and release the agitated scorpions. The sting of these creatures was incredibly painful, and the venom injected into their victims would lead to their death.


Swine were a key weapon to break through military walls composed of elephants and to destroy cities, encampments, and supplies of the enemy. Pigs were covered in oil or petrol and lit on fire before being released into enemy territory. Their squealing, running, and the heat form the fire at the feet of elephants made these giant creatures anxious and agitated, sending them running and throwing their handlers off their backs. Armies who relied on elephants as a key form of defense could not afford to lose these animals, meaning a fiery pig attack would could signify their downfall in battle.

Assassin Bugs and Snakes

Assassin bugs and snakes had two main uses during battle. Much like scorpions, both of these creatures were placed inside terracotta vases and thrown towards enemy armies like hand grenades. The vases would break on impacts setting free deadly bugs and snakes.

Even after their death, bugs and snakes were crushed and mixed in large pots where their venom, decaying bodies, and any other animal or plant added to the mix would sit covered for months to create a foul and bacteria filled liquid. Spears and arrows were dipped into this deathly concoction which upon wounding would deposit traces of the liquid into the wounds of armies, making it nearly impossible to heal or recover.

The ingenuity of armies across different civilizations to bring in animals and critters accessible to them into battle was not only genius physical warfare, but outstanding psychological warfare too. The type of damage animals created was unique, unexpected, and could rattle any warrior’s confidence in seconds.

Next time you see or call an animal to battle while you play the games in our Age of Empires series, think about the power that lies in your hands and your enemy’s hands. Will these creatures lead you to victory or be your empire’s downfall?

I must continue my work for next week, but as always…. I will return.


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