Monday, 21 September 2020

The white-browed robin-chat,

Heuglin’s Robin is the most wide-ranging Cossypha robin in the Afro tropical region but has only a limited distribution in the more tropical parts of southern Africa. The range extends from northern KwaZulu-Natal through Swaziland, the Transvaal Lowveld, and the Limpopo Valley, over most of Zimbabwe, and westward into the Okavango and Caprivi regions. Heuglin’s Robin is also known as white-browed robin-chat, (Cossypha heuglini) it is a species of bird in the family Muscicapidae.

It is recognized two subspecies in southern Africa: C.h. orphea with a stronghold in the Okavango and adjacent tributaries to the Zambezi River, and euro note east of this throughout the remainder of the region. Its magnificent crescendo duetting song is one of the characteristic sounds of Africa in both towns and wildlife sanctuaries.

Its white eyebrow and overall bright orange under-parts provide a unique combination that should preclude confusion with any other southern African bird, yet for many years other species have repeatedly been misidentified as Heuglin’s Robin in areas which are ecologically unsuitable and outside its range.


Throughout its range, it is a characteristic species of riverine forest, even where this is limited to a thin discontinuous fringe. Where it is common it also frequents evergreen thickets (as on termite mounds) in woodland and in modified areas, frequenting the gardens of homesteads and towns.

In the Transvaal and Zimbabwe, it was found most commonly (up to 3 birds/ha) in the riverine forest with a high percentage of evergreens, discontinuous canopy and well-developed shrub and ground layers. The vegetation analysis besides showing where it is most commonly encountered provides a diagrammatic representation of its decreasing abundance and smaller range from Zimbabwe southwards. From Zimbabwe northwards it is a common garden bird and may nest close to human dwellings in places such as vine-covered verandah trellises.


It is not known to undertake regular seasonal movements anywhere within its range. The slightly lower reporting rates in winter in some regions are probably explained by quieter and more covert behavior in the nonbreeding season.


The bird records are showing that its breeding starts in July–May in the north and September–April further south (Zone6) with a general peak in October–November.


Eggs are laying in usually restricted to September–January. But on a few observations have been recorded in August from Zimbabwe notwithstanding. 

Interspecific Relationships

From the eastern high lands of Zimbabwe south into the Transvaal and KwaZulu-Natal (and in many other parts of its Afrotropical range), it shares its habitat with the Natal Robin C. natalensis (Farkas1969). These species breed alongside each other and have similar diets but there is as yet no evidence of so-called competitive exclusion of either species by the other.

Historical Distribution and Conservation:

It appears to be slowly extending its established range in the south. In the 1950s its southernmost limit was that portion of the Mkuze River east of the Lebombo range (the ‘northern Zululand’ of McLachlan & Liversidge 1957). By 1970 the birds sit had reached the Hluhluwe River in the south and pushed west of the Lebombo range by way of the Pongolo and Mkuze rivers into the Louwsburg and Magut districts of KwaZulu-Natal.

However, severe damage done to the riverine forests of northern KwaZulu-Natal by Cyclone Demoina in 1987, when it has probably halted or at least set back this expansionary phase. Heuglin’s Robin is common throughout most of its widespread Afro tropical range and is not listed The IUCN classifies it as a least-concern species.


Heuglin’s Robin diet consists of many different things, like beetles, ants, termites, and some other insects, arthropods, frogs, and variable fruits. The robin likes to bathes in water.


The Heuglin’s Robin contact calls include repeated pit-porlee, chiiritter-porlii and da-da-da-teee and end with da-teeee or chickle-ter-tweep. Therefore, the alarm call is takaata-kaata-kaata. The white-browed robin-chat has a melodious song, usually given at dawn and dusk, is quiet at first, and then becomes louder. It consists of many pip-pip-ureee, when singing loudly, its beak is wide open and its breast is inflated. The bird tail moves when each note is sung. Also, some observations have seen when pairs may duet.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Starling Birds – Saints or Sinners?

Starling birds are so familiar that birdwatchers all too often ignore it. Yet, if it were as rare today as it used to be its superb iridescent plumage would rank it as one of the most beautiful of British Birds. The starling is one of our most common birds. More than six million pairs breed every year.

In the winter they are joined by at least 30 million more individuals that migrate here from northern and eastern Europe. Yet, up until the middle of the last century, the starling was relatively uncommon in Britain. The rise in the British population is part of a general pattern throughout Europe in which starlings have increased in numbers and spread westwards.

Omnivorous eaters

The reasons for this population increase is not completely understood but an important factor is the bird's ability to live on a wide variety of foods. Fruits, seeds, flying insects, caterpillars, grubs, earthworms and household waste are all eaten, although the amounts taken of these different foods vary with the season.

In spring the starling's diet consists mainly of insects and their larvae; in summer fruits become important; by winter these are replaced with seeds. Throughout the year, however, animal foods remain an important source of protein. Another reason for the starling's success is that, during the last century or so, large areas of Europe's indigenous forests have been cleared to create grassland for farming.


Close cropped grassland is the starling's favorite habitat. One can often see those probing grassroots for invertebrates such as caterpillars, earthworms, and leatherjackets (the larvae of crane flies and a serious agricultural. During the breeding season, starlings spend most of their feeding time in grassland.

However, at other times of the year, they spread out into new habitats a necessity if they are to take full advantage of their omnivorous nature. Bushes, hedgerows, and trees are visited by starlings for fruits such as cherries, elderberries and sloes. Moreover, they also search stubble fields, newly sown cereal fields and farmyards for seeds.

Forming flocks

People often ask how starlings gather so quickly and in such numbers when food is put out into a garden. Starlings have an excellent memory, especially when it comes to remembering places where food appears regularly and in abundance. These places are always under observation by at least one bird. When food appears, one starling flies down to investigate.

If it begins to peck, then all the other starlings nearby recognize this as a sign of food and fly down to join in. Within a very short time, a feeding flock has formed. The formation of a flock for feeding is advantageous for the flock members in that they can feed much faster than when they are on their own.

There are many more eyes on the look-out for predators such as cats and sparrow hawks. Against this, however, is the problem that a flock can grow too big for the food source, with the result that bickering and fighting ensue. The starlings' An omnivorous diet means that.

Depending on what they are eating, a large flock can either inflict great damage or be of great benefit. The starlings' consumption of large numbers of leatherjackets is an obvious boon to the farmer but, on the other hand, they can devastate cherry orchards that are in fruit.

Roosting by the million

As well as feeding in flocks, starlings also roost in flocks. Some times more than a million birds gather together in night roosts, attracting large numbers of predators. In places such as Trafalgar Square, huge flocks can be seen wheeling around and darkening the sky at dusk.

Quite why starlings roost in such numbers is not yet known, but the advantages must be considerable since they outweigh the attentions of predators. It may be that roosting presents a good opportunity for poorly fed birds to learn from their better-fed neighbors the location of good food supplies.

Nesting in letterboxes

The starling's choice of nesting site shows again how well it takes advantage of opportunities presented by a man. Its most typical nest site is a natural hole, usually in a tree but also on a cliff. However, any hole of the right size and situation will do: cavities in the roofs of houses and farm buildings are especially popular, and on occasions, it even nests in letterboxes.

The breeding season begins in April. The male chooses his nest site and starts to build the nest a bulky affair of dried grasses decorated with fresh green vegetation and the petals of spring flowers. The breeding season is the only time of year when starlings are territorial.

The male defends a small territory around his nest site, but other breeding pairs are tolerated only a few yards away. Once the male has built his nest he tries to attract a female by flying inside the nest hole and singing. Once the male has a mate, she completes the nest, lining the cup with material that can range from fine grasses and feathers to string and cellophane.

Eggs and Young

Between three and six eggs may be laid, though the usual clutch is five. The eggs are small, about 3cm (1in) long, and clear pale blue or blue-green with no markings. Incubation is carried out mostly by the female and takes about 11 days. At first, the young chicks are blind and without any feathering, save for a few tufts of down.

But the chicks grow quickly since they are fed by both parents on a protein-rich diet of invertebrates; in the first 12 days their weight increases from 5g (oz) to 60g (20z). After the twelfth day they virtually cease to add weight, but their feathers begin to develop rapidly and by the time the chicks are 21 days old they are ready to leave the nest.

In most years the parents begin a second clutch of eggs. Between the first and second broods, starlings often swap partners. The female birds are moving on to join the males at the other nests. And the situation is further complicated by the fact that a few male starlings are polygamous, having two females occupying nearby nests.

Mimicry in birds

The starling's song is not particularly musical but it is remarkable for its mimicry. Sometimes it mimics phrases from the songs of neighboring starlings, but it can also mimic the calls of other birds, including bullfinches, curlews, tawny owls, and green woodpeckers. It can even imitate mammal noises-as well as inanimate sounds, such as telephones ringing.

Ornithologists have discovered that, with some species, if a male possesses a wide repertoire of songs it has a better chance of breeding successfully. This explains why starlings make such a variety of noises but not why they mimic 'foreign' sounds rather than create their own distinct sounds. That remains a mystery.

Starlings are closely related to those master-mimics, the mynah birds. Unlike the mynahs, however, starlings cannot imitate human speech. Mimicry is not confined to the starling family: parrots and jackdaws reproduce words, and many species imitate other birds.

Read More – The Curlew Bird and Its Cousin
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Monday, 1 June 2020

Why the change in wife's behavior?

A rebellious wife who sniffed her husband's nose, and forbade him to live by her style and affairs. One day she woke up her husband early in the morning and said with great respect and love, My Sartaj; Get up, it's morning. And then she brought a nicely prepared breakfast to her husband's bed.

The husband, who had already woken up and was amazed at his wife's behavior, could not keep quiet after breakfast and asked, "What happened to you today?" How has it suddenly changed in you?

The wife said that the women who were preaching came to the neighbour's house yesterday. He said that Allah will forgive the man whose wife is immoral and immoral and may admit him to Paradise for enduring his wife's immorality and immorality.

The husband said, "So far so good, go ahead?" The wife growled and said, "If you want to go to heaven, then go away from your deeds. Why do you become a messiah and go because of me. 

Thursday, 27 February 2020

How Starling Get Their Name?

group of starlings is called a “murmuration,” presumably because of their mingled chatter when they roost in thousands. Then they take off again, turning in unison through the skies, like one huge bird or millions of twirling stars. The starling’s Anglo-Saxon name was staer. The “ing” suffix, a diminutive, was added later to form “starling.” Some etymologists connect the name with a celestial star: In winter starlings have a speckled, or “starry,” plumage, later replaced by glossy black; and when they fly they look a bit “star-shaped” from beneath. “Sterling” silver could, it is thought, also be connected with starlings, from Edward the Confessor’s silver coins, which were marked with four birds. exterminated. 

Ornithologists on each side heatedly attacked one another, and the vituperative public argument became known as the “Sparrow War.” But the sparrows were here to stay. Even though in 1899, the American Ornithologists Union rejected the “eligibility” of the house sparrow to be an “American” bird, it finally had to be added to the checklist in 1931. The number of house sparrows decreased somewhat when horses were replaced by automobiles, but this immigrant is now one of our most ubiquitous birds. The Venerable Bede compared the human soul to a little “sparrow,” flitting through a hall: “It enters in at one door and quickly flies out through the other. 

So this life of man appears but for a moment; what follows or indeed what went before, we know not at all.” Not only God but ornithologists too count hairs— or feathers. In 1933 Alexander Wetmore published The Number of Feathers in the English Sparrow, which reported that, not including the downy under feathers, the number varied seasonally, from 1,339 to 3,332. Far from being irrelevant, the number of “sparrow’s” feathers can have taxonomic importance. Most of the New World birds we call “sparrows” have nine primary wing feathers and belong to the Ember - izidae family (see Bunting). 

They are not related to Eurasian sparrows, which have ten primary wing feathers and are in the Passeridae family. Some Old World sparrows, however, were introduced to America and elsewhere, thriving so well they now seem like natives. The most notable is the house sparrow, sometimes (inaccurately) called the English sparrow. It was introduced to North America in the nineteenth century, and in 1871 Marianne North, a Victorian lady traveler and artist, wrote, “In and about all the great towns of the States I saw little houses built for the accommodation of sparrows; the birds had been imported from England to get rid of a caterpillar. 

The sparrows seemed to take kindly to their new homes and diet, but it was still a problem how they would endure the winter.” Not only did they endure, but they also multiplied, soon becoming pests, and Americans were divided as to whether they should be

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

How Northern Cardinal Get Their Name?

Early settlers simply called the northern cardinal, which is unique to North America, “the Red Bird.” It was frequently captured and put in cages, where both males and females would sing “exceedingly sweet,” unless “they would die with grief,” wrote eighteenth-century naturalist Peter Kalm. Our common northern cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis, was initially Loxia cardinalis. Loxos, Greek for “crossroads” (so “crosswise” or “crooked”), was for its curved conical beak which the cardinal uses to crush grains and seeds, rather than peeling them, as weaker-billed birds must.

The name “cardinal” comes from the officials of the Catholic church, who traditionally wore bright red, a sign of affluence and power. Before synthetic dyes, red was an expensive color to obtain because it was derived from the rare cochineal insect. Subsequently, only the elite could afford red garments. These powerful ecclesiastics got their name from the Latin cardo, or “hinge.” The balance of significant ideas often “hinged” on the judgment of powerful church officials, and indeed sins or virtues could become “cardinal” too.

The cardinal family grouping has been changed several times, and it still isn’t always consistent. Cardinals are now generally grouped with grosbeaks (from the French gros, “large,” and bee, “beak”) and buntings. The family name is Cardinalidae. Older books may call the cardinal Ricbmondena caidinalis, after Charles Wallace Richmond, who spent most of his life working in Washington. He had become interested in birds when, at the age of thirteen, he was a page in the House of Representatives and was allowed access to books in the Library of Congress.

While studying for a degree in medicine, he took a job as a night watchman at the United States National Museum, and gradually advanced until he became assistant curator, residual there until he died in 1932. Although he made a card index of all the known birds and was greatly appreciated by his generations, he is not much recognized these days. His former namesake, though, was the first bird in the United States to be given official state recognition when in 1926it was designated as the state bird of Kentucky. Now it’s the bird of seven states. This peak of the avian hierarchy is (nomenclatorial speaking) an unclear separation of church and state but, yet, unchallenged.
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What is Cardinal Bird Meaning?

Northern Cardinal bird a representative of a loved one who has passed away. Therefore, when you want to see him, it means they are visiting your door very soon. Normally showing up when you most need them or miss a lot. They also make an appearance during the times of celebration as well as despair to let you know they will always be with you. Some people believe this story, however, some’s don’t and called it superstitions.

Cardinal Bird Meaning in terms of spiritual is known for being a seer and messenger with his head’s crest. The vibrant red color is interconnected with East Compass point, the start of spring maybe can take messages to you from the spiritual world. Another myth of when cardinal crosses your path, then it means romantic relationship ahead in future or experience renewed romance and courtship. In the Bible, Red Cardinal Meaning peace and purity in the light of the spirit. Many people believe, the cardinal bird comes in some unusual circumstances and brings potent messages. The cardinal bird symbolizes virtue, purity, love, responsibility, and balance.

The red bird is also called monogamous birds, that is so romantic, harmonious, and full of songs. Some people believe, if you see cardinal flying towards the sun, it will bring good luck to you. Although red cardinals are common, yellows are one in million bird. The northern cardinal scientific name is Cardinalis cardinalis, is also known colloquially as the redbird. Both male and female birds like to sing in a louder string of clear two parted whistles and morphological ability to vary their song.

The cardinals seldom used extensive frequency modulation in their songs. Differential singing behavior of this nature probably enhances long-distance communication by minimizing excessive reverberation from canopy foliage. Some of the differences in dialects may be the result of selective pressures exerted by the acoustics of the environment. Cardinals are colorful, tolerant of people, have pleasant calls, and are easily attracted to bird feeders. That has made them a favorite of backyard birdwatchers all over the eastern half of the United States. Their eye-catching bright plumage brings color to our yards during the winter when many other species have flown south.
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Thursday, 20 February 2020

Mount Pinatubo, Philippines, Volcanic Eruption

On June 15, 1991, and persisting for eight hours, the second-largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century, that of Mount Pinatubo, took place on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The largest eruption was Katmai in Alaska in 1912. Pinatubo is only fifty-five miles from the capital city, Manila. As many as eight hundred people were killed and 100,000 became homeless following the eruption. Millions of tons of sulfur dioxide were discharged into the atmosphere, causing a decrease in the surface temperature of the entire globe over the next few years. 

Mount Pinatubo is part of a chain of volcanoes along the Luzon arc on the west coast of the main island of the Philippines, Luzon, created by subduction action of tectonic plates like the way the volcanic mountains of Cascadia develop, such as Mount St. Helens. The events of 1991 the eruption began back in July 1990, when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred sixty-two miles northeast of the Pinatubo region, a result of the reawakening of Mount Pinatubo. In mid-March 1991, villagers around Mount Pinatubo began feeling earthquakes and volcanologists began to study the mountain. About 30,000 people lived in villages on the flanks of the volcano prior to the disaster. 

On April 2, 1991, small explosions from the mountain led to eruptions of ash that was deposited on local villages. The first evacuations of 5,000 people were ordered later that month. Before the catastrophic eruption of 1991, Pinatubo was not a dominant landmark, unknown to most people in the surrounding areas. Its summit was 5,725 feet above sea level, but only about 1,800 feet above nearby plains, and only about six hundred feet higher than surrounding peaks, which largely obscured it from view. An indigenous people, the Aeta, had lived on its slopes and in surrounding areas for several centuries, having fled the lowlands to escape persecution by the Spanish. 

They were a hunter-gatherer people who were extremely successful in surviving in the dense jungles of the area. The dense jungle that covered most of the mountain and surrounding peaks supported the hunter-gathering Aeta, while on the surrounding low-lying areas the abundant rainfall provided by the monsoon climate and the fertile volcanic soils provided excellent conditions for agriculture. Many people grew rice and other staple foods. Many of the Aeta who lived on the slopes of the volcano left the villages of their own volition when the first explosions began in April, gathering in a village about eight miles from the summit. They moved to increasingly distant villages as the eruptions escalated, some moving as much as nine times in the two months preceding the eruption.

Earthquakes and explosions continued to occur. On June 5, a level 3 alert was issued for two weeks due to the possibility of a major eruption. The extrusion of a lava dome on June 7, led to the issuance of a level 5 alert on June 9, indicating an eruption in progress. An evacuation area twelve miles away from the volcano was established and 25,000 people were evacuated. On June 10, Clark Air Base, a U.S. military installation near the volcano, was evacuated. The 18,000 personnel and their families were transported to Subic Bay Naval Station and most were returned to the United States. On June 12, the danger radius was extended to eighteen miles from the volcano and this involved increasing the total numbers evacuated to 58,000. 

Unfortunately, at the time of the eruption, Tropical Storm Yunya was passing forty-seven miles to the northeast of Mount Pinatubo, causing a large amount of rainfall in the region. The ash that was ejected from the volcano mixed with the water vapor in the air to cause deposits of rock and ash to fall across the whole of the island of Luzon. Many of the eight hundred people who died during the eruption were killed by the weight of the ash collapsing roofs and killing occupants. Had Tropical Storm Yunya not been nearby, the death toll from the volcano would have been much lower.

The volcano had experienced major eruptions in the past, the last being about five hundred years ago. Pinatubo stood about 5,725 feet above sea level before the June 1991 eruption. On June 15, the climactic eruption of Mount Pinatubo began in the early afternoon and lasted for nine hours, causing numerous earthquakes due to the collapse of the summit of Mount Pinatubo and the creation of a caldera. 

The caldera reduced the peak from 5,725 feet to 4,872 feet. In addition to the ash, Mount Pinatubo ejected between fifteen and thirty million tons of sulfur dioxide gas. Sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere mixes with water and oxygen in the atmosphere to become sulfuric acid, which in turn triggers ozone depletion. Over 90 percent of the material released from the volcano was ejected during the nine-hour eruption of June 15. The human impacts of the disaster are staggering. In addition to the up to eight hundred people who lost their lives, there was almost one half of a billion dollars in property and economic damage. The economy of central Luzon was completely disrupted, the volcano has destroyed 4,979 homes and damaged another 70,257. 

One year after the eruption thousands of additional homes were destroyed and 3,137 were damaged, usually as a result of rain-induced torrents of volcanic debris. The eruption plume of Mount Pinatubo’s various gasses and ash reached high into the atmosphere within two hours of the eruption, reaching an altitude of twenty-one miles and covering an area 250 miles wide. This eruption was the largest disturbance of the stratosphere since the eruption of Krakatau in 1883. It had a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 6, making it equivalent to some of the most violent eruptions in all human history. Mount Vesuvius, Krakatau, and Thera of ancient Greece all had VEI of 6.

The aerosol cloud spread around the earth in two weeks and covered the planet within a year. During 1992 and 1993, as a result of this aerosol cloud, the ozone hole over Antarctica reached an unprecedented size, creating a heightened risk of skin cancer all over the world. The cloud over the earth reduced global temperatures. In 1992 and 1993, the average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere was greatly reduced and the entire planet experienced its minimum temperature in August 1992. 

Overall, the cooling effects of Mount Pinatubo’s eruption were greater than those of the El Nino climatic event that coincided with the aftermath of the eruption. Pinatubo’s cooling effects were also much greater in the years 1992 and 1993 than the increases that were accumulating due to human actions via greenhouse gases. The United States military never returned to Clark Air Base. 

The damaged base was turned over to the Philippine government on November 26, 1991. In all, the eruption ejected about two and a half cubic miles of material into the atmosphere. Damage to health care facilities, and the spread of illnesses in relocation facilities, led to soaring death rates in the months following the eruption. Education for thousands of children was seriously disrupted by the destruction of schools in the eruption.
Aerial view of the north side of Pinatubo crater with a small explosion in progress on June 22, 1991. (1)
Aerial view of the north side of the Pinatubo crater with a small explosion in progress on June 22, 1991.
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Friday, 14 February 2020

The Domestication of a Horse

In the domestication of animals, the sequence was first the dog, probably before 10,000 B.C. Thereafter, goats and sheep, the wild ass, and the ox. In about 5000 B.C. the draft horse begins to appear in Central Asia and the ancient Near East. Apparently, horses were first used to draw carts with wheels and were soon employed in drawing chariots to carry fighting men and to make displays in processions.

In about 2000 B.C., humans started to ride horses widely. Horseback riding represented a major revolution in technology, with dramatic effects, particularly in warfare. Horses had to be bred larger to carry a person. That the practice seemingly grew up first among nomadic tribes that herded horses in central Asia, including what is now Iran and Afghanistan.

Some of the great conquering peoples of central Asia, including the Huns and the Mongols, achieved their victories via the horse-mounted cavalry soldier. The horsemen of central Asia developed organized warfare to plunder, a tradition that pitted the mounted horseman against settled agricultural villagers and against defenders of cities.

The techniques of horseback warfare evolved, becoming truly formidable after the introduction in the Middle Ages of the stirrup. Which allowed the cavalryman to put the full force of the horse behind the strike of the handheld lance. The only surviving species of originally wild horses is Equus caballus przewalskii, named after a Russian-Polish explorer, Nikolai Mikhailovitch Przewalski (1839–1888). Who identified it in 1880 in the wild, mountainous regions between Tibet and Mongolia?

Smaller than the domestic horse, the Przewalski horse is assumed to be the ancestor of the modern horse. Also, many types of horses were not beneficial for drawing plows or another heavy hauling until the development in the Middle Ages of the horse collar and the horseshoe. The famous Genghis Khan (1162–1227) led horse-mounted cavalry, equipped with stirrups, in the conquest of northern China in 1213. Then ranged over what is now India, through to the Crimea on the Black Sea.

Since the Middle Ages, horses have been bred with numerous specializations, including the Thoroughbred for racing. Moreover, the Arabian for riding, Perc herons for heavy hauling, the Lipizzaner (from Croatia) and Ten domestication nesses walking horse for performance, and a variety of cow ponies for herding and ranch work. When a male ass is bred with a female horse, the result is the usually sterile hybrid mule, a hardy pack animal.

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  3. Architecture and Applied Arts in Old Spain
  4. The Historical Rare Pictures of RMS Titanic Ship
  5. The Lost Treasure of Kelly’s Canyon, Idaho

Friday, 7 February 2020

Sled Dogs Supply Soldiers - Alaska to the Alps

Though sled dogs have been helping humans since they were first tamed and broken to the trace thousands of years ago, their history of supporting soldiers is much more recent. Most of that support can be traced back to the U.S. Army’s involvement in Alaska in the early 1900s and to Europeans’ efforts to use dogs on both the Western and Alpine fronts during World War I. “Seward’s Folly” was a vast and capricious land.

As military presence in Alaska grew, local sourdoughs and Indians provided much information about the vagaries of land and weather. The military soon learned that moving troops in winter was virtually impossible without dog teams, and military outposts began using them as winter transport, mostly hiring local teams and drivers on contract. This method was easier and more cost-effective than attempting to set up a military operation. Billy Mitchell, who later became known as the father of the U.S. Air Force, was sent to Alaska in 1901 as a young lieutenant to supervise the establishment of the Washington–Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System.

When he arrived at Fort Egbert (in eastern Alaska near Eagle), hardly any work was being done on the telegraph system. Troops had been using horses to haul equipment for the project in the summer months, but during the long, brutal winters all work essentially ceased. Lieutenant Mitchell had been given a deadline of five years to complete an extremely difficult section of the line stretched from the Canadian border to Valdez on the coast and Tanana in the interior. Being innovative in solving problems in Alaska, just as he was later when he proved that the flimsy aircraft of the day could sink a battleship, he consulted local civilian and native populations.

He devised a plan to use dog teams to move equipment and supplies into place during the winter when the ground was frozen. With all supplies in position, work on the telegraph line could move along uninterrupted during the long days of summer.1 Mitchell was the first military leader to purchase sled dogs and keep them year-round instead of relying on seasonal contracts.

Following the advice of the locals, Mitchell soon became an expert at selecting sled dogs. Before long he had acquired two hundred dogs, which he kept in a corral at Fort Egbert, running loose in a huge pack. This is contrary to today’s standard practice, in which dogs are kept individually chained. One of the best dogs Mitchell acquired was a Mackenzie River husky named Pointer, who weighed about 120 pounds.

The dog was so fierce,” Mitchell said, “that I had to cut off his fangs to keep him from killing the other dogs.” This was a common practice among the Alaskan Eskimos, as reported by the Czechoslovakian explorer Ian Wetzl: “At six months of age wolf pups that had been taken from their parents had their incisors pulled, filed, or broken off. After being castrated also, the dogs were then trained to the trace.”

After losing his fangs, Pointer became “tremendously attached” to Mitchell and eventually became his best lead dog. Mitchell credits Pointer with saving his life on numerous occasions when he broke through river ice. Mitchell said, “Pointer was so strong that if he could get his front feet on anything solid, he could pull the next dog out and then the next.”

One day while scouting the telegraph route, with the ambient temperature hovering at minus sixty degrees Fahrenheit, Lieutenant Mitchell broke through thin ice and fell into icy water up to his shoulders as Pointer struggled to pull the entire team free. Many a musher and dog team have perished when ice fractured beneath them. Mitchell used many dog handling techniques common to the indigenous peoples of Alaska. Removing incisors was one.

Another technique was to use a twenty-foot whip to keep order among the team. He would even stand by with his whip during feeding time to ensure that no dog would steal the others’ food or start a fight. Mitchell initially trained two good dog teams so that he and a companion could scout the proposed route of the telegraph line. During this reconnaissance, Mitchell learned what the dogs could do. He also learned that, contrary to expectations, men could work in the extreme cold of Alaska’s winter.

After Mitchell’s survey trip, teams of men and dogs were put to work in earnest moving cables, poles, and other equipment. The stalled telegraph line was completed in only two years, three years ahead of the original schedule,8 largely because of Mitchell’s foresight. During the Alaskan gold rush from 1898 to 1906, dog teams were the primary method of hauling freight throughout the region. Dog teams were hitched to sleds during the winter.

In summer they were hitched to small trams on rails, to carts, and even to barges that they pulled along streams. So many people were using dogs throughout this boisterous era that high stakes gambling for gold soon spawned wagering on dog races and freight pulling contests. These races continued long after the gold strike ended. The All-Alaska Sweepstakes, which became known internationally, was the most famous, and many competitors became known throughout the world. Scotty Allan won the All-Alaska three times as well as placing second three times and third twice.

Explorers such as Roald Amundsen and Vilhjalmur Stefansson asked him for advice about their upcoming Arctic explorations. During World War I, foreign military powers sought his expertise. During the Great War in Europe from 1914 to 1918, all combatants used dogs in many roles. The French and Belgian armies used draught dogs to pull carts of supplies and ammunition as well as to transport wounded soldiers. French and German soldiers met in combat in the Vosges Mountains on the Western Front during the severe winter of 1914–15.

Much of the fighting was done on skis, and deep snow made it hard to supply soldiers with food and ammunition.10 A French army captain named Mufflet, who had been to Alaska during the gold rush, suggested using dog teams in the Vosges to move freight over the snow. The French government asked Scotty Allan to supply dogs and sleds and to train soldiers in dog driving.

For this mission, Allan purchased 106 dogs around Nome. To transport them to a barge that would take them to the cargo ship anchored offshore, Allan tied all the dogs to one long rope like a gangline. He attached this rope to a team of horses and a wagon to supply braking power. He put a good lead dog in front, and the world’s longest dog team proceeded without incident to the barge, where the dogs were loaded for the first leg of their journey to France, along with sleds, harnesses, and two tons of dried fish.

After docking in Vancouver, the Alaskan dogs were transported in secrecy across Canada on a guarded railroad train. Three hundred more dogs from Canada and the Arctic joined the original Alaskan group in Quebec. Sixty more sleds and 350 dog harnesses had been made and added to the shipment. The next problem was how to ship over 400 dogs across the Atlantic, which was infested with German submarines.

The ship’s captain did not want any dogs on deck because their noise might alert enemy subs to the ship’s position, but Allan trained the dogs not to sing or bark during the two-week passage. The dogs were housed in shipping crates chained to the deck, which served as dog kennels at the front.13 Once he arrived in the mountains of France, Allan’s next task was to train fifty Chasseurs Alpins, French mountain soldiers, to drive the dogs.

These soldiers and dogs were under the command of the French lieutenant René Hass, with Allan acting as technical adviser, and the men had to overcome the language barrier, learning English dog commands. Training went extremely well except for one enormous dogfight that involved piles of fighting dogs up to six feet deep. Less than two months after leaving Nome, dog teams with French drivers were hauling supplies and ammunition to areas that previously could not be reached.

One group of these dogs delivered ninety tons of ammunition to an artillery battery in only four days. It had taken up to two weeks for a combination of men, horses, and mules to accomplish the same thing. Columns of dog teams often stretched over a mile. Allan noted that “the soldiers acted more like it was play than work, even whooping and hollering in attempts to pass each other.”

On another mission, dogs assisted in laying over eighteen miles of field telephone wire in one night, allowing a totally isolated unit of soldiers to communicate with headquarters again.15 When the mountain snows melted, dogs were hitched to cars on a narrow-gauge railway that had been laid to continue transport of supplies and munitions. The cost of their upkeep was small since plenty of horse flesh was available from the slaughter of combat. Dogs were eminently more economical than horses. Two seven-dog teams could do the work of five horses in the formidable terrain.

Three Alaskan sled dogs in French service were awarded the Croix de Guerre, one of France’s highest military honors, for their actions in combat. Details of their deeds are not available, but after the war, all the dogs who worked with the Chasseurs Alpins were rewarded with a life of leisure for their heroic service to their adopted country.

They were released from service and became pets in France’s Alpine tourist region. World War I is well remembered for the massive carnage on the Western Front. Less universally recognized is the difficult fighting between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies that took place in brutal mountain conditions on the Alpine Front. In one remote area, regional operations were carried out around Mount Adamello in the Trentino salient.

Fighting at altitudes ranging from 10,200 to 11,500 feet. Battles occurred over a long period (1914–18), in terrain that was considered almost impossible for any military engagement. Military historians consider this combat “unique in the annals of mountain warfare.”17 Severe winter conditions combined with the altitude made troop supply one of the greatest challenges for military commanders. Pian di Neve was a glacier that surrounded an area of the Tonale Pass at 6,108 feet. This glacier was a key location for the Italian Alpini (mountain troops) who fought here.

Horses and mules replaced the men who originally carried supplies across the glacier, five miles round trip. But these animals could not cope with the extremely severe weather, which dropped up to thirteen feet of snow. Dog teams eventually replaced them for this arduous task. Dogs transported three tons of provisions and nearly ten tons of firewood daily during the last two years of World War I to supply the four thousand men fighting in this hostile region.

The project of using dogs to transport provisions was started by the Milan kennel club. Sanitary corpsmen helping to move wounded soldiers from the front had proposed using dogs: the kennel club established a committee to procure them, and experiments were conducted as early as 1915. As in France, there were no northern breed sled dogs available, but Italy recruited dogs from the surrounding countryside instead of bringing them in from elsewhere. Some were even enlisted from southern Italy. Ultimately 250 shepherds’ dogs were trained as sled dogs in military kennels at Bologna.

Various breeds including Saint Bernards were purchased for twenty to thirty lire each. Dogs had to be ten months to three years old and needed heavy coats. White coloring was desirable for camouflage on snow. All dogs had a serial number tattooed inside an ear, but most handlers also gave them names. Dogs were so well disciplined that they could be fed in two parallel rows facing each other. Their food was placed in bowls between the rows, and they would not budge from their position of “attention” until a bugle was sounded.

To prevent fights, dogs were trained not to invade another dog’s space during feeding time. In the mountain’s dogs received the same rations as Alpini soldiers: bread and meat in the morning and bread at the evening meal.19 Teams of two or three dogs wearing leather harnesses were attached to sleds by wooden shafts. The Cagnari (as dog drivers were called) used skis or walked alongside their dogs instead of riding the sled as the French did, imitating Alaskan mushing.

The center dog was considered the lead dog. This hitch was called a troika after the Russian three-horse configuration. Sleds were similar in design to Antarctic sleds but were simpler in construction, with blunt rear ends. A brake consisting of a wooden board pierced with iron spikes was attached to the rear with chains. Cagnari could step on it with both feet for maximum braking on the glacier ice.

Sleds were used to transport both men and material; there was even a group of sled-stretchers for evacuating the wounded. Italian dog teams made three trips across the glacier each day to supply troops, with only one day of rest each week.

Each team towed a sled loaded with 120 to 140 pounds of cargo.20 The main kennel, at Garibaldi Pass on Mandrone Glacier in the Adamello Group, housed two hundred dogs. It was a wooden shack built on a concrete slab raised three feet off the snow for insulation. Dogs rested on straw in compartments off a central corridor. Another group of forty dogs kept in a forward area at Passo Lobbia Althpar was used to supply advances in troop lines.

There was also a small collection center for injured and ill dogs in the bottom of the Valley d’Avio, near the village of Temْ where dogs could rest, acclimate, and heal before being sent back to the front lines. One Alpini officer described dogs in action as “wonderful, robust, and intelligent animals,” eager to work. They departed on each supply trek as soon as the sled was barely loaded.

Dogs would trot on moderate terrain, but on steeper sections, they would slow to a walk and lower their heads to pull. Teams were even credited with spoiling Austrian ambushes by barking when they encountered unfamiliar smells on the wind. Italian sled dogs served loyally and gallantly throughout 1917–18, and many were lost to enemy artillery fire. Just before the armistice ending the Great War, the Austrians hastily left the glacier district with the Italian Alpine Corps in pursuit.

In the soldiers’ haste to end the war, all the dogs were abandoned and forgotten at Temْ. Hungry and thirsty, they reverted to the wild for survival. Finally, they became a threat to local civilians. Unlike Scotty Allan’s huskies that were rewarded for their duty in France, the faithful Italian Alpine sled dogs ended their military service without recognition or reward. Because there was a meat shortage in the mountains, they were eventually hunted to extinction, and most ended up in the stew pot.23 The U.S.

The army made no use of sled dogs during World War I. Except for a regiment of American troops dispatched into northern Russia (North Russia Expeditionary Force) in 1918–19, it was not engaged in combat in areas where dogs might have proved useful. By contrast, the British Army, which was in overall command of the international force in northern Russia and Siberia, used Canadian dog teams with Canadian soldier-drivers attached to the Royal Army Medical Corps (ramc).

The dogs were “usefully employed in drawing stretchers with wounded from the firing line.”24 These Canadian huskies served the British forces around Murmansk and Archangel in combat against the Bolshevik army. As was true for other combatants during the Great War who used sled dogs, the evacuation of wounded proved one of the most important tasks of the Canadian sled teams in northern Russia. The sleds used were lightweight, double-ended Nansen types, called Shackleton sleighs by the English, capable of carrying 800– 1,000 pounds as well as a four-stanchion basket type freight sled.

Some Shackleton sleighs were even fitted with removable combined handlebars and side rails. Both sled versions were equipped with springboard brakes. Like most freight sleds of the era, neither allowed the driver to comfortably stand on the runners and riders. Dogs were attached to the sleds in either a four-dog tandem configuration of a seven-dog double tandem (Nome hitch). Harnesses were leather “horse collar” design. After the war, sled dogs were still maintained in Alaska, even during austere times when the military defense budget was drastically cut.

There were still a few army dog teams in Alaska during the 1920s and 1930s, years when the army slaughtered horses because if lacked funds to feed them. It had been proved over the years that in Alaska’s snowdog teams were the only dependable transportation. In 1926 the U.S. War Department published a technical regulation concerning dog transportation. It was a forerunner of later field manuals published in 1941 and 1944.

The regulation, tr 1380–20, was definitive. It stated that dog transportation “is of great value in countries where snow and ice conditions and lack of roads preclude the use of the horse or mule or motorized transportation.” This regulation defined the types of dog teams as heavy and light. Heavy transportation was used to carry men and supplies. Loads were not to exceed the total weight of the dogs minus the weight of the driver. These teams could travel from two and a half to three miles an hour for eight hours. Light transportation, also called messenger transportation, was designed for fast travel in emergencies or for speedy communication.

Teams for light transportation could travel at five to six miles an hour for eight hours with a load of no more than twenty-five pounds per dog. These classifications remained standard throughout the entire period of military use of sled dogs. Recommended speeds and load-carrying capacities changed slightly over the years. The command “Mush!” was an official term designated in the original 1926 technical regulation defining dog training and commands.

In later years this term lost favor with army dog drivers. The 1941 version of the manual substituted “All Right!” and stated that it was preferable to “Mush!” However, “Mush!” was still favored by Alaskan dog freighters when the last manual was published in 1944. For use in Alaska, the technical regulation highly recommended two specific dog breeds: the Mackenzie River husky and the Kobuk Valley dog. The Mackenzie River husky was finally recognized toward the end of World War II in attempts to breed the ideal Army transportation dog.

The regulation also mentioned malamutes and Siberian huskies as being suited for the area. These were the primary dogs used during World War II. Various types of sleds were also defined by this technical regulation. The three basic types included one modeled on an Alaskan freight sled that was thirteen feet in overall length, a small eight-foot messenger basket-type sled, and a smaller freight sled ten feet, three inches long that could be used as a trailer or hooked in tandem to increase the load-carrying capacity.

Sled design remained unchanged through the publication period of FM 25–6, Basic Field Manual, Dog Team Transportation (1941). In 1938, twenty years after the Armistice ended World War I, a team consisting of descendants from Scotty Allan’s heroic huskies was called back into the French army by the war minister. This dog team helped Lieutenant Flotard (an Alpine soldier and instructor at the Military High Mountain School) and with his comrade Paul-ةmile Victor complete a winter traverse of the Alps.

Their trek from Nice to Chamonix by the Haute route (high road of the Alps) was considered quite a feat. During this military exercise, they navigated rigorous obstacles including a dozen steep gorges and nine mountain ridges. When the dogs arrived in Chamonix they were celebrated as heroes. The classic winter traverse received considerable publicity both within France and internationally.

Here again, in the Alps it was proved that sled dogs could pull heavily loaded sleds where mules with similar loads could not go in winter.31 Only a few years later, the U.S. Army learned this fact again at Camp Hale, Colorado. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, there were only fifty sled dogs left in the U.S. Army in Alaska.32 The few men who drove them represented the paramount military authority on dog transportation at the time.

But when the army expanded its sled dog operations, these were not the people consulted. Those who took part in polar expeditions were summoned for their knowledge. Several factors contributed to this oversight. It occurred partly because New England, where dog racing was popular, was close to Washington dc, and it was partly influenced by individuals like Admiral Richard E. Byrd. Also, the army in Alaska was not considered to be at the forefront of recognition, innovation, or modernization.

Alaska was not a career-building assignment for officers. Being assigned there was considered banishment from the mainstream. The modern mechanized military judged dog teams, like horses, to be antiquated. Then its rediscovered sled dogs’ unsurpassed capability for traversing ice and unbroken snow, the terrain that encompassed almost 45 percent of the North American landmass and nearly 65 percent of that of Eurasia. This part of the world became an important consideration in the truly global conflict of World War II and its aftermath, the cold war.