Feats of animal heroism are enough to melt the heart of even the hardest cynic. Many creatures have saved many lives with their quick thinking or instinctive behaviour. Here are some of the most notable examples.
Moko the dolphin
Many tales of heroism come from the animal being in the right place at the right time. Moko’s is different, however, as he managed to achieve something that humans had already tried to do but failed.
It all began on Mahia Beach, New Zealand, back in 2008. Two pygmy sperm whales had found themselves trapped in shallow water, unable to find their way back to where it was safe. Marine experts from all around had tried all they could to direct the animals back to deeper water but to no avail. With hope starting to seem lost, Moko – already a family favourite for his interactions with humans – entered the breach and appeared to show the two whales the way out. The whales dutifully followed and soon returned to safety.
In one day Moko had gone from being a local favourite to a global star thanks to his life-saving actions.
Cher Ami the pigeon
As with many tales of animal heroism, the story of Cher Ami comes from World War I. Donated by British pigeon fanciers to the US Animal Signal Corps, Cher Ami managed to save the lives of 194 soldiers.
Finding themselves behind enemy lines with no food or ammunition, and being fired upon by allies who thought they were the enemy, the Lost Battalion of the 77th Division suffered heavy loss of life. Two pigeons took flight to send messages back to base, but were killed by German fire. Then, Cher Ami (‘Dear Friend’ in French) took to the skies. She too was shot at, but managed to complete the 25 mile journey in as many minutes. Despite being blinded in one eye, shot through the breast and having one leg hanging on by only a tendon, she delivered the message, saving nearly 200 lives in the process.
Cher Ami was patched up and survived her ordeal, even having a small wooden leg made. Her heroism earned the plucky pigeon the Croix de Guerre medal for gallantry in battle.
The three lions of Addis Ababa
Lions may be famed for their killer instincts, but three of them from Ethiopia showed a very different side when they were reported to have saved a 12-year old abductee.
The girl was taken by a group of men who beat her and had tried to force her into marrying one of the group. What the men hadn’t bargained for, was the protective instincts of three lions, which scared the group off, before standing guard over the girl, to ensure she came to no more harm.
Once the girl was discovered, the lions were reported to have sensed she was in good hands, so simply walked away, as though presenting her like a gift. It was thought they’d kept watch over her for half a day.
Though the tale may sound farfetched, wildlife experts have said that the crying of a young girl may sound similar to the sound of a lion cub mewing. This would have triggered their protective, parental instinct and been the cause of this extraordinary rescue.
Gelert the dog
Our final tale of animal heroism is one rooted more in legend than in reality – and whether or not the story is actually true, it’s gone down as one of the most memorable tales in British folklore. Though be warned, it’s emotional.
The story of Gelert begins in 13th Century Wales, when he was given to Llewellyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd. Llewellyn usually took Gelert out hunting but for once had opted to leave him at home. Upon his return, Gelert greeted Llewellyn happily, though the dog’s mouth was covered in blood. Panicked, the Prince ran to the room where his baby son had been left sleeping, only to find the cot empty and the sheets also covered in blood.
Anguished and enraged, Llewellyn drew his sword and plunged it into Gelert’s side, killing the dog instantly. Only then did Llewellyn hear the cries of his infant son from elsewhere in the house. Rushing over, he found the baby unhurt, next to a mighty wolf, which Gelert had slain.
Legend goes that Llewellyn was so grief-stricken that he never smiled again. Today, the town of Beddgelert (Gelert’s Grave) remains a reminder of this cautionary tale.
Whilst minor miracles such as these might not occur every day, it’s comforting to know that there are animals out there willing to put their own health and safety on the line, in order to save the lives of others. They are true heroes.