Wildlife TV

Learn interesting and funny plant and animal facts with videos and photos

Jackie: The South African baboon soldier

on August 19, 2013

I like to post on the Wildlife TV Facebook page interesting animal facts in the form of “Did you know..?” as often as possible. Today my little fact was the following:

“Did you know that.. A baboon called Jackie became a member of the 3rd South African Infantry Regiment during  World War I?”

As soon as I posted it I realised that I had to tell more about this story than just the above line.

Somehow this “little” fellow named Jackie does not have his wikipedia page or any relevant information about his life, adventures and achievements and I feel the need to share his crazy, but true, life story.

The story starts in August 1915, almost 100 years ago, in the Marr’s family farm in Villeria, Pretoria, South Africa.

Jackie the Chacma Baboon poses with Albert Marr in uniform for the South African Infantry during World War IJackie, the protagonist of our story, was a Chacma baboon (Papio ursinus) found by Albert Marr on his farm that soon became their beloved pet.

When World War I started many young men got enlisted and Albert was no exception. He got attested for service at Potchefstroom in the North West province of South Africa as private number 4927 for the newly formed 3rd (Transvaal) Regiment of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade  on the 25th August 1915. At the time he approached his superiors and requested Jackie to go with him and (surprisingly) got their permission.

Once enlisted Jackie was given a special uniform complete with buttons. a cap, regimental badges, a pay book and his own rations.

Although at first the other members of the regiment just ignored him, he soon became the official mascot of the 3rd Transvaal Regiment.

And if you think he was there just to eat and fool around you are very wrong!
When he would see a superior officer passing by he would stand to attention and even provide them with the correct salute.

He would also light cigarettes for his comrades in arms and was the best sentry around due to his great senses of hearing and smelling which allowed him to be able to detect any enemy long before any of his other army mates could even notice their approach.

And he wasn’t just a well taken care of pet, away from the actual battle, Jackie spent three years in the front line amongst the trenches of France and Flanders in Europe.

During the Senussi Campaign on 26 February 1916 in Egypt, Albert Marr got wounded on his shoulder by an enemy bullet and Jackie stayed beside him until the stretcher bearers arrived, licking the wound and doing what he could to comfort his friend.

Later on, in April 1918 both privates got injured in the Passchendale area in Belgium during a heavy fire.

As the explosions surrounded them, Jackie was seen trying to get some protection by building a little fortress of stones around himself. Unfortunately he didn’t manage to finish his little safe area and was hit by a chunk of shrapnel from a shell explosion nearby which also injured Albert. Jackie’s right leg got seriously wounded and was later amputated by Dr RN Woodsend. Both privates made a full recovery and shortly before the armistice Jackie got promoted to corporal and awarded a medal for valour.

Jackie, the Chacma Baboon poses for a photograph with his other army comrades on the South African Infantry in uniform and saluting during World War I

On the end of April Jackie was officially discharged at the Maitland Dispersal Camp, Cape Town, South Africa, while wearing on his arm a gold wound stripe and three blue service chevrons indicating three years of frontline service. He was also given a parchment discharge paper, a military pension and a Civil Employment Form for discharged soldiers.

After this crazy adventure Jackie returned to the Marr’s family farm where he lived until the 22nd May, 1921.  Albert Marr lived until the age of 84 and died in Pretoria in August 1973.

And here is the story of this peculiar Chacma Baboon that due to his curious life ended up as the only monkey to reach the rank of Private of the South African Infantry and fight in Egypt, Belgium and France during World War I.

Jackie the Chacma Baboon private from the South African Infantry greets a young girl in his uniform during World War I

Hope you liked this little known fact.

Até à próxima!



If you liked this entry, make sure you check out our Mammals category.
Previous Mammals entries:
Elephants avoid a full moon when being naughty
What perfume to wear on an African safari
Baby animals: How do they survive? Giraffe & Nile Crocodile

13 responses to “Jackie: The South African baboon soldier

  1. I wonder if Jackie’s hearing might have been damaged by all the loud gunfire. Fascinating story.

    • Wildlife TV says:

      It is quite a story indeed.
      I know that baboons are quite well known by their high stress levels, especially high ranked individuals, so it is no surprise that Jackie managed to cope with his situation as well as a human would.


  2. Alison Jobling says:

    A story that’s both heart-warming and heart-rending – thanks, Sofia! It’s a great illustration of just how close we are to apes, and what a lovely friendship they had that transcended species. 🙂

    • Wildlife TV says:

      You are right. There are so many little behaviours that remind us that we are very similar to apes and monkeys.
      Baboons, just like humans, can be quite aggressive animals but at the same time quite affectionate to their own. It’s all about balance and bonding with another individual.
      I don’t know if you remember but I also mentioned before how some baboon species adopt feral dogs and raise them as pets just like a human would. It’s a very rare behaviour in any species.


      • Alison Jobling says:

        I don’t remember that about them adopting feral dogs, but that’s interesting. Wasn’t there a gorilla in a zoo somewhere that adopted a kitten that wandered into its enclosure?

      • Wildlife TV says:

        I’m not sure about a gorilla in a zoo but I know that Koko had a cat as a pet.
        There is even a funny story how one day Koko broke the sink and then when asked what happened she blamed it all on her kitten.


      • Alison Jobling says:

        Thanks, Sofia, I didn’t know about Koko. It’s pretty clear that humans aren’t the only sentient primates. 🙂

  3. preconcept says:

    Esta história é fantastica! adorei 🙂

  4. Tony Macquet says:

    I am the National Chairman of SAMVOA in Melbourne and we are being asked a lot of questions about Jackie. Who could we put them onto. One is a BBC / University of West England. My e-mail is tony@samvoa.org;
    Many thanks, Tony Macquet.

  5. That’s really cute Dankie

  6. carla says:

    Ótima história, eu adorei. Jack era um soldado muito esperto,
    cheque meu blog sobrancelha fio a fio

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