Not much is known about the 78 or 80 Navy SEALs who stormed Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, this weekend, but a few details are coming out about one of them. For one thing, he has four legs and a highly trained nose.
According to the New York Times, one member of the commando team that killed bin Laden was a "what may be the nation's most courageous dog."
Almost nothing is known about the dog, and even military sources weren't clear about its breed, telling the Times it was probably either a German shepherd or a Belgian Malinois (pictured above).
The Guardian reports that "the so-far unidentified canine was lowered into the compound from a helicopter while strapped to a human member of the team." According to Time magazine, the dog was probably wearing some sort of body armor to protect it during the raid.
Sources say a dog would have been essential in the raid to help protect American soldiers from explosive devices. According to the Times, dogs "have proved far better than people or machines at quickly finding bombs," including improvised explosive devices, which have been responsible for two-thirds of all casualties in the ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The Times interviewed Maj. William Roberts, commander of the Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base, who said the dog could have sniffed out explosives or booby-trapped doors, or even helped find people who might have been hiding in secret rooms.
Also known as the Belgian shepherd dog, the Malinois "is an alert, high-energy breed, popular as both a police and military working dog," according to the American Kennel Club, which says the breed is "more elegant in build" than a German shepherd, but just as powerful and agile.
Dogs have a long history in wartime, especially since World War II, when the U.S. War Dog program was first established soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor. According to the Military Working Dog Foundation, dogs have filled a variety of roles, including serving as sentries, scouts, messengers or mine-sniffers. The foundation helps the public adopt military dogs that have completed their service.
According to Slate, the military has 2,700 dogs in service, 600 of which are in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Guardian says most of the dogs are purchased in Europe, the best source for breeding lines for the preferred breeds.