Bunny, World War I Horse Hero
By Margaret Evans
In the July/August 2017 issue of Canadian Horse Journal, we celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary with stories of 20 exceptional horses that have reflected our values and fired our national pride. One of those horses was Bunny.
In 1914, just over one hundred years ago at the start of World War I, Bunny, a strawberry roan gelding from the Toronto Police Mounted Unit, was called upon to serve his country. The Canadian military needed suitable horses to send overseas and the City of Toronto offered to donate mounts to the Canadian artillery.
Major McDougall, the officer commanding the 9th Canadian Field Artillery, inspected all their horses and picked 18 of the best. Four of the unit’s officers, including Constable Thomas H. Dundas, enlisted with what became known as the Toronto Battery.
This is the only known photograph of Bunny from the Toronto Telegram in 1919.
“Tom Dundas was the most decorated Toronto police officer to serve in the war,” says William Wardle, retired Unit Commander of Toronto’s Police Mounted Unit. “Not too much is known about Bunny. The horse would have been a commercial grade horse, a mix between a work horse and a riding horse.”
Bunny was first ridden on the front line by Tom Dundas’ brother who was killed in action. He was then ridden by Thomas Dundas. According to Wardle, 17 donated horses died in service, the only survivor being Bunny. He became a symbol of hope, a beacon of a brighter future.
When the chief constable reported that one of the artillery horses had survived the war after four years of unbroken service, a plan was made to bring Bunny back to Toronto and the city agreed to pay all transportation costs. But before arrangements could be made, the quartermaster general dictated that only horses of officers would be transported back to Canada. All the other surviving horses along with Bunny were sold to the Belgian government for $40 each.
Bunny the Brave War Horse is a children’s book by Elizabeth MacLeod.
In tribute to Bunny, who represented all Canada’s war horses, his contribution was recognized on November 21, 2002 by Canadian Senator Lowell Murray who stood up in chambers to acknowledge what a very special horse Bunny had been.
Mirvishproductions produced a vignette called Toronto’s War Horse when War Horse was presented on stage in Toronto.
This article was originally published in the July/August 2017 issue of Canadian Horse Journal.