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...by 1939, the German army possessed some 590,000 horses...[the German army] was still primarily dependent on horses, of which Poland was to supply the majority, to the tune of 4000 per week in April of 1940 [...]The campaign [in the west] was also a major boon for the German army's horse situation, as access was now gained to the valuable horse-breeding areas of Holland, Belgium and Normandy [...]By June 1941, the army in the east had assembled some 625,000 horses. Of these, the single largest concentration was in the Fourth Army (twelve infantry and one security divisions), which by 13 June 1941 possessed some 130,000 horses, over 20 per cent of the total number.
Although the campaign [in the east] opened for the Germans with a series of brilliant successes, a number of problems were encountered. During advances in the hot Russian summer, German forces had to make frequent stops - some at great length - in order to water their horses. Worse problems were encountered with providing food, particularly in Army Groups North and Centre. Hard fodder had to be shipped to units through the supply system, creating an additional burden on an already overstrained network.The horses most affected by the food shortage were the heavier western breeds, which were also unaccustomed to the Russian climate. The Russians had large numbers of horses, but these could not be used immediately. The 'panje'* horses were hardy animals, but too light to pull the standard 105 mm artillery gun**. Also, the standard German horse-drawn vehicle was made of steel*** and was too heavy for the Russian horses. It was only after the Germans produced a lighter vehicle - or took Russian wagons - that Russian horses could be used cost-effectively [...]
The winter of 1941 produced the greatest crisis. Horse losses in Army Group Centre had reached about 1000 per day [...]
The standard German infantry division (1939 pattern) required anything from 4077 to 6033 horses to move. However, German divisions rarely had more than 150 horses in reserve. Moreover, German veterinary hospitals, which could handle from 500 (divisional veterinary company) to 550 (army hospital) horses, were swamped, often having to treat 2-3000 horses at one time.
Yet the Wehrmacht survived. Replacements and captured horses were sent to veterinary collecting stations for medical examination. Horses no longer fit for military service but able to work were evacuated and later sold to farmers. Those too weak to be evacuated were slaughtered for meat. Measures like these enabled the army to endure, even though the Germans lost a total of 180,000 horses during the winter of 1941.
For the fateful campaign of 1942, the German horse situation looked better. Over 200,000 horses were brought in from Germany and the occupied countries, although only about half of them had arrived at the front by May. Since the major offensive operations were to be conducted in the south, the divisions in Army Group South obtained the full complement of horses [...] by 1942 the Germans were using much lighter vehicles, or wooden carts, which allowed them to make use of the large number of Russian horses in occupied areas [...]
By 1 February 1945 the Wehrmacht was able to deploy some 1,198,724 horses [...] From 1940 to 1943, the German army requisitioned a total of 1,200,000 horses from Germany and the occupied territories (see the table I've posted below) [...]The total number of horses lost by Germany during the war was estimated at some 1,500,000.[...]
The Wehrmacht's reliance on horses was also deeply felt in European agriculture. The most immediate effect, of course, was on horse population. Equally obvious was the fact that those areas where campaigns were hardest-fought lost the most horses. The Soviet Union's horse population was decimated. From a total of 21,000,000 in 1940, by 1943 the number had fallen to a low of 7,800,000, a drop of almost two thirds. Of the 11,600,000 horses in occupied territory, some 7,000,000 were 'killed or taken away'.
In the west, the horse population in Belgium and the Netherlands fell as Germany's needs increased. In Belgium, the number of horses in agriculture fell from a pre-war 1929 high of 266,433 to a low in 1944 of 222,781**** In the Netherlands, the total number of horses during the war actually increased, although the number of horses in agriculture declined considerably, from 326,000 in 1940 to 302,000 in 1944.
Jon G. wrote:* I've seen the word 'panje' used to describe wagons issued to the Wehrmacht immediately before Barbarossa; I've seen the word used to describe a breed of German horse, and I've also seen the word used to describe Russian peasants' carts.
** Wasn't the standard German artilley piece only 100 mm?
*** Not sure if this is right, or if indeed there was such a thing as a standard horse-drawn vehicle.
**** That drop doesn't look all that dramatic to me, especially since we don't know when the Belgian horse population began to drop - right after depression kicked in in 1929, or because of German commandeering of Belgian horses from 1940 on.
K.Kocjancic wrote:Does anyone have any info on horse breading facilities of Wehrmacht/Polizei/SS? Were they part of raiding/Kav. schools or were seperate?
All the best
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