- Laika, the mongrel that made history in space
Laika, a Russian word for “barker,” became the first animal to circle the Earth on November 3, 1957, when she flew aboard the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2. This event paved the path for human spaceflight. Just one month had passed since the Soviet Union’s unmanned artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, had been launched, marking the beginning of the space era for humanity, when the canine cosmonaut completed her historic mission. Laika, a female mutt of modest size, was discovered as a stray and trained with other possible space dogs. The Soviets favoured using strays because to their tendency to be more resilient than house-bound hounds. She was also known as a “muttnik” in America. In spite of the Soviet Union’s original claims that Laika lived on Sputnik 2 for over a week before dying, it was discovered in 2002 that she passed away from stress and overheating only hours after launch. When Sputnik 2, carrying Laika’s remnants, re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere in April 1958, it burnt up after completing more than 2,000 orbits around the globe. In August 1960, Belka and Strelka, two Soviet space dogs, made history by becoming the first animals to successfully orbit the Earth. On April 12, 1961, little than a year later, Soviet aviator Yuri Gagarin made history as the first person in space. Eight years later, on July 20, 1969, NASA’s Apollo 11 mission saw the United States land a man on the moon.
2. The carrier pigeon Cher Ami, who helped American soldiers in World War I
Cher Ami, or ‘dear friend’ in French, was one of hundreds of Black Check Cock carrier pigeons used by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in France during the war to deliver critical messages from commanders in the battlefield. The messages were put in canisters connected to the birds. Despite suffering severe injuries from enemy gunfire, Cher Ami sent word to American forces in October 1918 from U.S. Army Maj. Charles Whittlesey’s “Lost Battalion” of the 77th Infantry Division, which was besieged by enemy soldiers on a hillside in northeastern France during the Meuse-Argonne offensive and being shelled by friendly fire from the Americans, who did not know where the battalion was. Cher Ami took flight and was fired at and wounded by German bullets, but he made it back to his home coop and sent a message from Whittlesey with the whereabouts of his troops. The Lost Battalion was spared as a consequence, and Cher Ami subsequently received the Croix de Guerre from the French government. The well-known bird was preserved by a taxidermist and shown at the Smithsonian after he passed away in June 1919.
3. Cairo, the canine that aided in Osama Bin Laden’s demise
Cairo went with the group of US Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, when they raided his Abbottabad, Pakistan, residence. The expedition brought an end to an almost ten-year worldwide quest for the infamous mastermind of the terrorist acts of 9/11. Specifics regarding Cairo are mostly unknown to the public, just as many facts about the men of SEAL Team Six who participated in the clandestine operation are still secret. As per diverse news reports, the K9 warrior’s duty was to assist in the compound’s patrol and counter any enemy fighters that could surface. Cairo is said to be a Belgian Malinois, a breed smaller than German shepherds but similar in appearance. The U.S. military, which started utilising dogs extensively during World War II, values the Malinois for its strength, intelligence, speed, and keen sense of smell. The dog’s formidable jaws have given it the moniker “maligator.” Although it has been stated that immediately after the operation, President Barack Obama met with the SEALs to thank them, the commander in chief also wanted to see Cairo, who was waiting in a neighbouring room. Cairo’s whereabouts have remained a mystery since the Bin Laden raid.
4. The Middle Ages saw a major infestation of fleas and rats across Europe.
A catastrophic epidemic known as the Black Death struck Europe in the middle of the fourteenth century, killing an estimated 25 million people, or at least one-third of the continent’s population. The origin of the Black Death was unclear at the time; some speculated that it was caused by an earthquake or that God was punishing humanity for their sins, while others thought it was a Jewish conspiracy to exterminate Christians. Later, researchers discovered that the cause was plague, an infectious illness that normally spreads to people by the bite of an infected flea and is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which affects rats and other small rodents. (The disease-carrying rat-flea combination was formidable. Rats are very versatile animals that can climb, leap, and swim well. They also reproduce a lot—a female rat may give birth to 12 litters of 20 babies per year. As bloodsucking parasites, fleas may drink up to 15 times their body weight in blood in a single day for an adult female. Furthermore, fleas have strong rear legs that enable them to leap well despite their lack of wings. Through trade channels, the Black Death made its way from central Asia to Europe in the late 1340s, when it quickly caused severe social and economic unrest and a staggering death toll. One effect of the Black Death was that peasants were able to demand greater salaries and a better quality of life because of labour shortages caused by population loss in certain places. The disease still exists today in several regions of the globe, including the US, where sporadic occurrences have been documented recently.
5. The ape who murdered a king
Greece’s King Alexander was strolling in a garden at the beginning of October 1920 when his dog got into a fight with a pet monkey. Another monkey lunged in and bit the monarch as he attempted to break up the altercation. The monarch passed away on October 25 at the age of 27 when his wounds grew septic. When his father, King Constantine I, abdicated the throne in June 1917, during World War I, Alexander was crowned. The Triple Entente (France, Great Britain, and Russia) put pressure on the pro-German Constantine, who supported Greek neutrality in the war. Constantine was restored to power by the end of 1920, but in his second reign, from 1919 to 1922, he led Greece in the Greco-Turkish War, which Greece ultimately lost. Winston Churchill of Britain afterwards said of the series of events that followed Alexander’s death: “It is perhaps not exaggerated to remark that a quarter of a million persons died of this monkey’s bite.”