Contrary to German Army propaganda, only 20% of German Army units were mechanized and this figure decreased as the war went on. For Operation Barbarossa, the initial attack by Nazi Germany on the Soviet Union, the German Army required more than 700,000 horses.
German Army 105mm howitzer attached to a two-wheel cassion which carried ammunition for the gun. The howitzer and cassion are being pulled by a six-horse hitch. It is somewhat unusual to see men mounted on all the horses since that added a lot more weight.
Mortality rates of Western European horses in Russia were very high and during 1941/42, a million German Army horses died in the Ost Kreig. German Remount Command scoured Europe for horses and took them from their owners at gunpoint.
****According to the following excerpt from the National Museum of the US Army:
“The reliance on horses caused substantial problems in terms of speed of movement, low cargo capacity, a short radius of action, and the disproportionate number of men needed to care for the animals. German horse-drawn artillery could only move at a rate of perhaps twenty-five miles a day for several days before the horses needed to rest.”
German horse-drawn transport crossing a pontoon bridge over the river Dnieper at Smolensk. The infantry divisions were dependent on horses to pull their artillery and supplies, and some 700,000 were used in Operation ‘Barbarossa’.
(photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum)
Unlike the mechanized forces of the Allies, the German Army had to maintain a large established of men in their veterinary corps to care for their millions of horses including farriers, vets, expert drivers, and handlers.