You might have been amazed when you heard that the King of Norway’s Guard promoted penguin Knight Sir Nils Olav to brigadier, but military animals are actually more common than you’d think.
Videos and images of the Norwegian Army putting on a ceremony for king penguin Sir Nils Olav as they gave him the rank of Brigadier, went viral this week and people lost it. Everyone was shocked, and went about wondering how a penguin became a brigadier.
As you might know animals used to play an important role in ancient warfare. Armies throughout history have heavily relied on animals to serve them in battle. Homing pigeons were used for communication, horses for transportation, and even elephants have been used to smash through anything in their way, but why would animals remain in the military today?
Even though there are exceptions, a few living animals with a military rank have actually served in battle. However, many military animals remain in active duty, either as mascots or for military assistance.
William “Billy” Windsor I
William Windsor is a cashmere goat who served as a lance corporal in the British Army. He was ranked corporal in 2001, but was temporarily demoted to fusilier for inappropriate behavior during the Queen’s birthday in 2006. He was returned his title as lance corporal before retiring in 2009.
Sir Nils Olav
Sir Nils is a king penguin, and mascot, Brigadier and Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian Royal Guard. He is the third king penguin to serve in the Norwegian military named Nils Olav. In August 2016, he was promoted to Brigadier in a ceremony attended by 50 Norwegian soldiers.
Wojtek was Syrian bear found in Iran, and was adopted by the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps. During his time with the Polish military he reached the rank of Private and helped move creates during the Battle of Monte Cassino.