Close-up of the
Text and Photos: James H. Hillestad
James H. Hillestad reflects on the unique
and at times bizarre roles played by animals
such as goats, sheep and elephants in
British military history and traditions
hen stationed as “official” mascots. commanding officer of the regiment asked one
overseas, British Official mascots are those of his soldiers whether he could try to rescue
soldiers often recognized by the British the animal. The soldier agreed and off he went,
adopted an Army Honours and Distinction braving heavy gunfire.
extraordinary Committee. Such mascots, of Commemorating the successful deed, the
menagerie of which there are nine, receive a ram received the Indian Mutiny medal, which is
animals. Some of these regimental number, assume a worn on a beautifully embroidered coat to this
remained pets, some rose to proper rank (with prospects for day. The 95th soldier’s reward for rescuing the
become regimental mascots promotion) and get a fair share ram is unknown.
and a few became recognized of Army rations.
Some mascots are indicative
of the recruiting area of a
regiment. Examples include the Sherwood Foresters
Staffordshire bull terrier, Irish ram by Caberfeidh.
wolfhound and Welsh goats.
BUNKER HILL GOAT
The earliest record of a
regimental mascot is a goat
adopted by the Royal Welch
Fusiliers during the American
Revolutionary War. After
wandering into the Battle of
Bunker Hill during the 1775
Siege of Boston, the goat
wound up leading the Fusiliers’
Regimental Colours off the
The mascot of the 95th
Regiment (later the Sherwood
Foresters) originated in the
Indian Mutiny of 1857, when Royal Regiment
a ram had been tethered to a of Wales goat by
stake awaiting consumption Caberfeidh.
Cigarette card depicting “The
Bear of the Royal Horse Guards.” by the mutineers. The
Irish Guards Royal Irish
wolfhound by wolfhound by
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Argyll and Sutherland Durham Light
Highlanders pony by Infantry goat by
SHETLAND PONIES Argyll. The horse’s name
The Imperial Light Horse of was Cruachan, the war cry of
South Africa have as their the Campbells
mascot “Queen’s Hussar I.” of Argyll.
The black Shetland pony was Noteworthy was his green Imperial Light Horse
given the name because of the shabrack with yellow border pony by Caberfeidh.
late Queen Mother’s special -- the regimental colors.
affection for the mascot and Cruachan was playful, though
the Light Horse’s regimental on one occasion he kicked a
alliance with the 4th Queen’s drum major. The offense was
Own Hussars. A plume in not taken quite as seriously as
regimental green and gold is it might have been because
fitted to the top of the pony’s the drum major was a Gordon
The Argyll and Sutherland The Parachute Regiment
Highlanders were presented also took a Shetland pony as
with a Shetland pony in 1929 a mascot. It was named after
by their Colonel-in-Chief, HRH Pegasus, the winged horse of
the Princess Louise, Duchess of Greek mythology.
Argyll and Sutherland
Highlanders pony by
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Parachute The 66th Regiment’s Royal Welch
regiment pony mascot Bobbie by Fusiliers goat by
by Caberfeidh. Trophy. Drill Square.
was later promoted to flight
When the 2nd Battalion,
Middlesex Regiment, returned
home from South Africa in
February 1903, the soldiers
DON THE BABOON brought with them a rather
Frederick, a South African pink-breasted pelican, special mule named Jimson.
was recruited into the Royal Air Force by He served with them through
members of the Central Flying School in 1971. He two wars, carrying ammunition
began in the rank of “Senior Under Pelican” and under fire in India and South
Jimson was dressed out in a
RAF pelican by lemon-yellow shabrack (yellow
being the color of the regiment’s
facings), edged with scarlet and
bearing the Prince of Wales’s
feather crest. In addition, the
mule was decorated with a red
and white throat plume.
The Middlesex Regiment
also brought back Don, a pet
ANTELOPE HALTS PARADE
Tradition has it that the Royal
Cigarette card portraying “Plassey, The Tiger
Warwickshire Regiment Cub of the 102nd Royal Madras Fusiliers (Now
acquired the badge of an 1st Battln., Royal Munster Fusiliers).”
mule by Drill Square.
U.S. MARINES’ CHESTY BULLDOG
Not to be overlooked, the U.S. Armed Forces
are also known for their mascots. Highly
visible at parades and sports events are the
mascots of the various service academies and
the Marine Corps.
Since 1922, the USMC has used a bulldog
as its mascot. Each has been named “Chesty”
after the famous Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis B.
“Chesty” Puller Jr. The dog lives at the Marine
Barracks in Washington, D.C., where he
appears in weekly parades.
The adoption of a bulldog as a mascot
was inspired by the name “Devil Dogs” or
“Teufel Hunden,” given by the Germans to the
Marines who fought so ferociously at Belleau
Wood in World War I.
--James H. Hillestad
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wolfhound by Drill
Dick the fox terrier of Rorke’s Drift fame by Trophy.
When stationed overseas, British
soldiers often adopted an extra-
ordinary menagerie of animals. Some
of these remained pets, some rose to
become regimental mascots and a few
became recognized as ‘official’ Canadian Irish
antelope in 1707 during the War King George V and proceeded
of the Spanish Succession. One to nibble the grass, thus halting
of the standards captured from the parade.
the Moors carried the antelope In 1968, the Royal Warwick-
as its emblem. shire Regiment was absorbed
The first live antelope dates into the Royal Regiment of
from 1871 and was obtained Fusiliers, where the tradition of
when the regiment was the antelope mascot carries on.
stationed in India. The animal
was named Billy. Since then,
the mascots have been named BOXER BOUNCES BACK
variously Bobby and Charlie. The mascot tradition in the
Though amenable to regiments of Staffordshire
discipline, the antelopes have reaches back to the 19th
been known to have a mind of century, when the South
their own. At a military review Staffordshire Regiment was
in Aldershot, the then current ordered to march with Lord
mascot, Bobby, chose to lay Wolseley in an attempt to
down as he was being led past relieve Gen. Charles Gordon, Academy goat by
Sherwood Foresters The Welch Regiment
ram by Drill Square. goat by Drill Square.
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U.S. Military Academy
at West Point mule by Royal Warwickshire
Martin Ritchie. Regiment Antelope
terrier by Ducal. by Ducal.
who was besieged by Mahdists in Khartoum, retreat. Nevertheless the
Sudan. The regiment entrained at Cairo with their IRISH BRIAN BORU spunky dog managed to trek
Staffordshire bull terrier named Boxer. In 1902, the Irish Wolfhound some 50 miles from the scene
Startled by the sudden noise of the Club presented the Irish Guards of the defeat to the British lines
locomotive’s engine as it departed, Boxer leaped with a prize dog for a regimental in Kandahar, where he was
from the moving train. He was seen lying, mascot. He was named Brian reunited with his wounded
presumed dead, at the side of the tracks. Boru, after the famous King of owner and the regiment.
A few days later, Boxer showed up at the Ireland (926 to 1014). Bobbie returned with the
regiment’s encampment at Assiut -- very thin and During ceremonial parades 66th to England. Along with a
bedraggled after having walked more than 200 the wolfhound always occupied group of soldiers receiving their
miles along the railway tracks in the scorching a position at the head of the Distinguished Conduct Orders,
heat. This feat marked the beginning of the regiment, led by the smallest Bobbie was presented to
tradition of having a bull terrier as regimental drummer boy. Queen Victoria.
mascot. To this day, the Irish Guards Sadly Bobbie was
is the only regiment in the accidentally run over by a
Household Division to have an hansom cab and killed in
MASCOT GETS DEMOTED “official” mascot. Gosport about a year later. The
In a rare occurrence, a British military mascot dog was stuffed, decorated with
was demoted in June 2006. an unknown soldier’s Afghan
A 6-year-old goat named Billy was LEGENDARY BOBBIE War medal and put on display
downgraded from the rank of lance corporal Then there is the story of in the regimental museum in
to fusilier -- the same status as a private. Bobbie, a mongrel from Salisbury.
A member of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, Reading who was the property
Billy became uncontrollable while on parade of Lance Sgt. Peter Kelly of the
at a British base in Cyprus. In the presence of 66th (Berkshire) Regiment. RORKE’S DRIFT DICK
United Nations dignitaries, he darted from side Bobbie accompanied the Another illustrious dog was
to side, throwing the soldiers off their stride. 66th to Afghanistan in 1880 a fox terrier named Dick, the
Capt. William Rose, who was present at for service in the Second constant companion of Surgeon
the parade, said that the goat “was trying to Anglo-Afghan War. After the Major James Reynolds.
head-butt the waist and nether regions of the disastrous Battle of Maiwand, The physician was with
drummers.” in which the 66th suffered 62 British troops who defended
--James H. Hillestad percent casualties, Bobbie Rorke’s Drift during the Anglo-
was lost during the survivors’ Zulu War of 1879. Despite being
The Parachute Regiment’s Shetland pony leads a parade of mascots from various W. Britain limited edition sets in the collection of TS&MF contributor Clyde Cocke. Following are the
Royal Regiment of Fusiliers antelope, the Staffordshire Regiment bull terrier, the Royal Irish Rangers Irish wolfhound and the Royal Welch Fusiliers goat. (Photo by Eilene Harkless Moore)
18 | Toy Soldier & Model Figure
Dorset set depicting Sir Nils Olav, penguin mascot of the
Norwegian King’s Guard, reviewing a detachment after being
knighted in Edinburgh in 2008. (Photo by Giles Brown, Dorset Soldiers)
attacked by overwhelming numbers, B Company,
2nd Battalion, 24th Foot, managed to repel the HIGHLANDERS’ ELEPHANT Cigarette card showing
“Pet Crane, 16th Lancers.”
Zulus after a 12-hour siege. A most conspicuous mascot
Dick appears in a famous painting of the was the elephant of the 78th
battle by Adolph Alphonse de Neuville. Highlanders (later Seaforth W. Britain, Caberfeidh
Highlanders), acquired in Miniatures of Scotland, Ducal
Ceylon in 1838. “The Elephant” Models, Dorset Soldiers, Trophy
The USMC’s was thought appropriate as it Miniatures of Wales Ltd. and
Chesty mascot by commemorated the Battle of Martin Ritchie of U.S. Military
Martin Ritchie. Assaye in 1803. Miniatures. Photos of some
The elephant was brought examples of 54-mm, painted
home to Scotland, where it metal mascots accompany this
marched with the band, much article.
to everyone’s delight.
Unfortunately, his keeper,
a Pvt. McIntosh, was fond of
his wee drams of whisky and
allowed the mascot to indulge
as well. The elephant took to
the habit, developed a mean
disposition and had to be
“transferred” to the Zoological
Society of Edinburgh.
Though not affiliated with
the British military, probably
the most unusual mascot is
“Colonel-in-Chief Sir Nils Olav,”
a king penguin who resides in
Scotland. He was adopted as U.S. Air Force
USMC “Tuefel Academy falcon by
the mascot of the Norwegian Martin Ritchie.
Martin Ritchie. King’s Guards when they
participated in the Edinburgh
Military Tattoo in 1972.
Aug. 15, 2008, the penguin
was awarded a knighthood,
an honor approved by Harald
V, the King of Norway. Sir Nils
resides in the Edinburgh Zoo,
which has a penguin colony. Martin Ritchie
US Military Miniatures
PO Box 323, Gilbert PA 18331
MINIATURE MASCOTS Tel: 610-681-5324
Given the colorful and at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
times fanciful assortment
of regimental mascots, it is
not surprising that they have ABOUT THE WRITER
captured the attention of a James H. Hillestad is the proprietor
number of toy figure makers of The Toy Soldier Museum and
past and present through the shop in Cresco, Pa., USA.
years, including Drill Square,
Toy Soldier & Model Figure | 19