Find the Goat in This U.S. Military Parade - Atlas Obscura
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Find the Goat in This U.S. Military Parade

In 1898, Thomas Edison Inc. filmed 300 Marines, the Marine band, and one ruminant on the march.

Washington is abuzz with the news that President Trump has ordered a military parade. These displays of military might and gear have been rare in the United States in recent decades, but earlier in American history, the military would parade through the streets with some regularity.

At the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, returning military men made their way through New York, and some of the country’s first film crews were there to capture the moment. In 1898, when the crew of the Brooklyn cruiser returned to Brooklyn, Thomas Edison’s film company captured footage of the ship’s 300 Marines and the Marine Band marching.

See if you can spot the goat they marched with:

This goat was an invited guest—the mascot of the Brooklyn, a goat named Billy Boy. The New York Times would later report that he displayed a “universal and indiscriminate pugnacity which is the strongest point in his character” and had served in the Marines since 1892. In a parade the next year, Billy Boy wore a “specific uniform of blue satin and yellow plus, a silver collar…with a medal depending from it, and a silk flag from each formidable form,” the Times reported.

Billy Boy was not the only goat mascot of the U.S. military. William Goat, a light gray goat, served with Admiral George Dewey and received an honorable discharge in 1899, when his ship, the Buffalo was retired. The mascot of the steamer Galena—named Billy, as apparently 19th-century sailors were not very inventive—was reportedly extremely good at the “abandon ship” drill. “He always fearlessly leaped into the cutter when the signal for abandon ship was given,” the News and Citizen reported. The cruiser New York had its own goat mascot, which was named, surprisingly, El Cid.

Royal Marine Band with goat mascot.
Royal Marine Band with goat mascot. robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

The U.S. military was not the first to adopt goats as mascots, though. A British regiment, the Royal Welsh, has a long tradition of goat mascots, going back to the 18th century. According to the regiment’s lore, a goat wandered onto the field in 1775 during the Battle of Bunker Hill and led the regiment into battle. Since 1884, under the reign of Queen Victoria, the regiment’s mascot has come from the herd of royal Kashmiri goats. The most recent mascot, Shenkin III, died late in 2017; the regiment spent a day in early February chasing his replacement through the mountains, but Shenkin IV has yet to report for duty.

These goats, it must be noted, are not mascots but ranking members of the regiment, according to the BBC. But goat mascots do still exist. A French-Canadian regiment has a goat mascot named Batisse and the Spanish Legion has a goat mascot that wears a Legion cap while marching in parades.

Goats seem to be less popular with the Marines these days; for most of the 20th century, their mascot has been a dog. The current mascot is a bulldog named Chesty XIV; he marches regularly in parades and, one can only hope, would feature in any major military parade staged today.