Mere mention of the word ‘war’ conjures up images of destruction, aggression and mortality in our minds. Most of us are fortunate enough to never actually witness a war. Wars were not only fought over honour, glory, to conquer lands and countries, but also over very small and petty issues. This article is a compilation of the 10 most bizarre wars in human history.
1.The Paraguayan war (1864-1870)
The President of Paraguay, Francisco Solano Lopez, was a huge admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte. He regarded himself a skilled tactician and believed Paraguay to be militarily superior. In 1864 he declared war with no motive or cause on Paraguay’s three neighbours – Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. In this war Paraguay was nearly annihilated as about 90% of its male population died due to battle, disease and starvation. It resulted in over 400,000 deaths and Paraguay had to cede territory to Argentina and Brazil.
2. The war of the stray dog (October 23, 1925 – November 2, 1925)
Tensions were perpetually high between Greece and Bulgaria especially along the border, an area called Petrich. But all hell broke loose on October 23, 1925 when a Greek soldier chased his dog across the Bulgarian border and was subsequently shot dead by a Bulgarian soldier. In retaliation, Greece invaded Petrich the next day. They quickly cleared Bulgarian forces but were halted by the League of Nations, who ordered them to leave and pay Bulgaria 45,000 pounds for damages caused. In the end 121 Greeks and 50 Bulgarians were casualties in one of the most bizarre wars in history.
3. The pig war (June 1859 – October 1859)
The Pig War was a confrontation between American and British authorities over their boundary, the San Juan islands. In 1859 a pig belonging to the British Hudson Bay Company wandered into the farm of American farmer Lyman Cutlar on the San Juan Islands. Cutlar shot the pig and and a huge dispute arose. By the 10th of August, 461 Americans and 14 cannons were being faced down by 5 British warships carrying 2,140 men. But soldiers on both sides had been ordered to fire only if fired upon and hence, waited for the other to make a move. Eventually, the British apologised and agreed on joint occupation of the island. The pig was the only “casualty” of the war, making it essentially bloodless.
4. The Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years war (1651 – 1986)
This war took place between the Netherlands and The Isle of Scilly which is off the southwest coast of Great Britain. It began as an extension to the Second English Civil War though the existence of a formal declaration of war is disputed. The war started in 1651 but was eventually forgotten about. It is said to have been extended by a lack of peace treaty which was finally signed in 1986 making it the longest war in history. Interestingly, there were more casualties in the shortest war in history than in the longest which did not witness even one actual shot fired.
5. The Football War (June 14, 1969 – June 29, 1969)
The Football War also known as The 100 hours War, was fought between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. Tensions between the two countries had been high due to political conflicts. When El Salvador lost a football match to Honduras resulting in its exit from the FIFA World Cup, tensions rose further with rioting and demonstrations. The Salvadoran Army launched an attack against Honduras. The Organisation of American States negotiated a cease fire on July 20, about 100 hours after the first shots were fired in the war which killed about 3,000.
6. Moldovan Transdniestrian war (March 2, 1992 – July 21, 1992)
After the Soviet Union collapsed, two-thirds of Moldova wanted closer ties with Romania, but the remaining one-third preferred Ukraine and Russia. War broke out and the east eventually split to form Transdniestria, which is still unrecognised by the world. But what makes this war weird is that the men fighting each gathered in no man’s land at night to mingle and drink. The local military called it “the Drunken War.” Officers met every night to have a drink and then went away in the morning to open fire on each other. This drunken war resulted in a total of 1,300 dead on both sides.
7. The Emu War (November 11, 1932 – November 18, 1932)
In 1932, the emu population in Australia was growing beyond control with over 20,000 emus wreaking havoc among crops. In response the Australian military declared war on the emus and sent out a task force of soldiers to kill them. However, shooting blindly on emus which can run up to a speed of 50 kmph did not bring the expected results. Only a handful were actually killed as the birds simply ran away even after being struck by multiple bullets. After a week, the “Great Emu War” was withdrawn on orders of the Defense Minister, resulting in a military defeat for Australia.
8. The Anglo Zanzibar War (August 27, 1896)
This was the shortest war, lasting only 38 minutes and was fought between the United Kingdom and Zanzibar, after the British didn’t approve of the new Sultan of Zanzibar, Sultan Khalid bin Barghash. In accordance with a treaty signed in 1886, for accession to the sultancy, the candidate had to obtain permission from the British Consul which Khalid had not done. So the British sent an ultimatum to Khalid to stand down and leave the palace. The ultimatum expired at 9am on 27th August by which time Khalid had not surrendered. At 9:02 am the British opened fire in the palace till 9:40 am, 38 minutes in total and then Zanzibar surrendered. 500 casualties were sustained by Zanzibar while the British only lost one sailor.
9. Lijar vs France (1883 – 1981)
In 1883, the citizens of Lijar, a village in Spain were infuriated when the Spanish king, Alfonso XII had been insulted and attacked by mobs while visiting Paris. In response the Mayor of Lijar, Don Miguel Garcia Saez along with its 300 citizens declared war on France on October 14, 1883. Not a single shot was fired, but despite the anticlimactic war, Mayor Saez was declared as the “Terror of the Sierras”. In 1976, ninety three years after the war started, King Juan Carlos of Spain made a trip to Paris during which he was treated with respect. In 1981, the town council of Lijar ruled that “in view of the excellent attitude of the French” they would end hostilities and agreed to a ceasefire with France.
10. The Aroostook War (1838 – 1839)
After the American Revolution and the War of 1812, the United States and Britain regularly disputed territory between the United States and Canada. British forces had occupied most of Eastern Maine and regarded it as British territory. In 1838, American woodcutters cut firewood in the disputed area which incited the ire of the British who moved troops into the area. The American troops moved over as well and for nearly a year the troops waited each other out before their respective governments finally reached an agreement. The war was devoid of military combat but there were still 550 casualties on both sides due to diseases and accidental injuries.