Mercifully, the First World War was the last major confrontation in which horses played a major role.
British cavalry were among the first units to see action in WW I, but they didn’t last. The war’s most impactful weapon—the machine gun—along with the mud and barbed wire of trench warfare would ultimately spell the end for equine-borne military.
One of the last successful cavalry charges on the Western Front took place at the Somme—on July 14, 1916, when the 20th Deccan Horse, an Indian cavalry unit, attacked a German strongpoint at High Wood. Armed with lances and despite an uphill climb, enough horsemen reached the woods to force some Germans to surrender.
The cost, however, was high: 102 of the attackers were killed, along with 130 horses. Two months later, the tank debuted...