The use of messenger dogs during World War I by both sides is well-attested to, but they were also used by Frederick the Great during the Seven Years’ War. Wikipedia says he is reportedly the first person to refer to the dog as “man’s best friend”

The use of dogs for military purposes in various roles stretches back to ancient times, but I’m interested in their use as messenger dogs. Whereas the use of pigeons apparently dates back to “the ancient Egyptians and Persians over 3,000 years ago”, the earliest reference I’ve found for dogs is the Seven Years’ War (so 1756 -63).

Is there any evidence of dogs being used to carry messages before this time?

What is the earliest recorded incident of a dog being used to carry a message?

I’m primarily interested in military situations, but would also welcome evidence of non-military uses which pre-date the Seven Years’ War.

1 Answer 1


The Romans are thought to use dogs frequently in war...at first as combatants, but that might not be the case.


Numerous dog books state that Greek and Roman armies fought their many wars assisted by large, dangerous war dogs. Even in encyclopedias, well-known dog writers state that war dogs “fought man to man beside their masters”. It was the Dutch dog writer and specialist in classic antiquity, Dr. Robert van der Molen, who, in his book Honden bij de Grieken en de Romeinen (Dogs in the Greek and Roman World), rectified this mistake. For many years, he studied the classic literature (Homer, Ovidius, Strabo, Vergil, Columella, Arrian, Xenophon, Oppian and many others) and translated their writings in which one or more dogs occurred. He came to the conclusion that dogs were present in legions, but they played no role at all in the acts of war. Dogs in Greek and Roman armies served as guard dogs, gundogs, and messenger dogs. Sometimes soldiers brought their own (hunting) dogs along as companions.

This is listing Dr. Robert van der Molen as the source, who, in his book Honden bij de Grieken en de Romeinen came to this conclusion. Unfortunately I can't find that reference in English to verify. http://www.akc.org/content/news/articles/dogs-for-war/ gives the same paragraph.

If that source is accurate, this would date dog use as messengers in armies back to BC times

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    Potentially a good find. Would be nice if we could find something to back up this source. Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 10:27
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    @LarsBosteen - I'm a bit hesitant on it as well...I find myself contradicting this source as I'm decently sure Romans used war dogs (it was 'Cry Havok, and let slip the dogs of war' afterall...'Cry Havok, and let slip a messenger dog' doesn't have the same ring to it). The presence of dogs and the training was definitely available at any rate, I'll see if I can find a better source.
    – Twelfth
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 18:47

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