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Canines of Courage: What Is the Highest Military Rank Achieved by a Dog?

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 The war dog with the highest rank was a Marine named Sergeant-Major Jiggs.

Jiggs was originally acquired by the Marines to bolster soldier morale during World War I. Marines saw themselves as fearsome dogs of war so they acquired a real-life bulldog, the service’s mascot, to promote the image and frighten the Germans.

Sergeant-Major Jiggs was an English bulldog who was the first Marine Corp mascot. Jiggs became a Marine in 1922, rose through the ranks, and was ultimately awarded his highest rank of Sergeant-Major in 1925. He served with distinction for two more years before passing away in 1927.

Jiggs in full uniform
Sergeant-Major Jiggs in full uniform
Canines of Courage: What Is the Highest Military Rank Achieved by a Dog?
Sergeant-Major Jiggs engaging in enemy recon
Canines of Courage: What Is the Highest Military Rank Achieved by a Dog?
Sergeant-Major Jiggs standing at attention
Canines of Courage: What Is the Highest Military Rank Achieved by a Dog?
Sergeant-Major Jiggs leading his subordinate in a display of camaraderie

Jiggs was originally named King Bulwark, but was later renamed by General Smedley Butler to Jiggs.

Short History of War Dogs

War dogs have been used since ancient times. The first recorded use of war dogs in battle was by Lydia’s Alyattes in 600 BCE in a fight against Cimmerians. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all too used war dogs in battle. 

War dogs’ duties have changed with the changing times. Now they are used to detect bombs, drugs, people, and attack if the need arises. War dogs have fought with their American owners since the War for Independence, but they’ve only been recognized officially since WWI. 

War dogs begin their service by being chosen according to strict criteria as puppies. They begin their training at around 6 to 7 months of age. The handlers work closely with the puppies so they can learn the jobs they’ll be performing as they grow older.

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The Most Famous War Dog

The most famous war dog of all time was Sergeant Stubby.

Stubby was a stray pit bull whose fame came when he saved a whole company from a mustard gas attack. Sergeant Stubby fought throughout WWI and saved uncounted lives.

He got to see the White House twice and saw three presidents. His remains are displayed in the Smithsonian Institute.

The Story of Sergeant Stubby

While undergoing military training near Yale University, Private Robert J. Conroy found a stray dog with a short tail and named him Stubby. No one knew for sure which kind of dog Stubby was but he had many of the characteristic features of a Pit Bull.

Private Conroy taught Stubby to salute and other tricks, which proved great for soldier-morale.

So Stubby was smuggled aboard the military transport ship for the 102nd Infantry Battalion, which arrived in France a short while later. And thus his story began.

How Did Stubby Serve Allied Forces in France?

  • When he smelled gas, Stubby barked to notify nearby soldiers of the danger
  • Stubby was able to dart between trenches to find winded soldiers and bark so medical personnel would know their whereabouts
  • Stubby learned to differentiate between German and English and once attacked a napping German spy who yelled an order in German; for this Stubby was given the rank of Sergeant surpassing his owner’s rank

In total, Stubby served in 17 battles and survived them all. He died in the United States at the age of 9 or 10 years old.

During Stubby’s life, he was highly decorated. Below are the military medals awarded to him:

  • 3 Service Stripes
  • Yankee Division YD Patch
  • French Medal
  • 1st Annual American Legion Convention Medal
  • New Haven WW1 Veterans Medal
  • Republic of France Grande War Medal
  • St Mihiel Campaign Medal
  • Purple Heart
  • Chateau Thierry Campaign Medal

That’s pretty impressive for any soldier — let alone a dog!

More about dogs in military in our article – Miltary Dog Names.

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Last update on 2020-11-25

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1 thought on “Canines of Courage: What Is the Highest Military Rank Achieved by a Dog?”

  1. World War I ended on November 11, 1918, but with the Coronavirus having us on lockdown, it doesn’t seem that times have changed much!

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