Pigeons' homing instinct makes them excellent messengers, and more than 200,000 served with British forces during World War II. Some 32 were awarded the Dickin Medal for carrying back vital information from behind enemy lines.
Feathered medal-winners include Gustav, a pigeon serving with the Royal Air Force, "for delivering the first message from the Normandy Beaches from a ship off the beach-head" on June 6, 1944, the day of the D-Day landings.
GI Joe, a member of the U.S. Army Pigeon Service, was honored for flying 20 miles (32 kilometers) in 20 minutes with a message that stopped U.S. planes bombing an Italian town occupied by British troops in October 1943, saving the lives of at least 100 Allied soldiers and many civilians.
Upstart, a London police horse, is one of three equine recipients of the medal.
He was honored for a World War II incident in which a German flying bomb exploded 75 yards away, "showering both horse and rider with broken glass and debris."
Despite this, "Upstart was completely unperturbed and remained quietly on duty with his rider," controlling traffic until calm was restored.
A FEARLESS FELINE
Only one cat has ever received the Dickin Medal.
Simon, a Royal Navy ship's mascot, was honored for his service on HMS Amethyst, a ship shelled by Chinese Communist forces on the Yangtze River in 1949.
Despite being seriously wounded by shrapnel, Simon returned to his rat-killing duties aboard the damaged ship, which was trapped for months in Chinese waters.
"Throughout the incident his behavior was of the highest order," the citation said.
Simon and the ship's crew were greeted as heroes when they made it back to England, but the cat died weeks before he was due to receive his medal.