Friday, November 1, 2013

French Horse Camouflaged With Paint

French soldiers painting a horse (1917)
In the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday, June 24, 1917, there was a lengthy article on World War I camouflage, titled A PECULIAR WAR NEED THAT AMERICA MUST FILL. In the bottom left corner of the page, there is a small, poor quality photograph of a group of people painting a horse—yes, actually applying paint to a live horse. The caption reads—

The French, who have carried the "camouflage" to further extremes than any of the warring powers, paint all conspicuously white horses khaki color to make them invisible.

There is further confirmation of this practice in Cécile Coutin's recent book, Tromper l'ennemi: L'invention du camouflage moderne en 1914-1918. On pages 114-115, she reproduces two photographs of French soldiers applying brown pigment to a white horse. One of these photographs was published on the cover of Le Petit Journal agricole (No. 1120, December 23, 1917), while the other one (shown above) was taken on the same occasion. The caption explains that the paint consists of potassium permanganate. Hmmm. One wonders what the effects would be on the well-being of the horse.