M*A*S*H is one of the most popular and iconic television shows ever produced. Even though it is about humans dealing with the realities of war near the front lines, many animals made their way into the series. From Radar's menagerie to Colonel Potter's horse to a dog injured in combat these animals added an extra measure of humanity to the characters and to the show.

Radar with a Skunk
Radar with a Skunk

Image via So Whatever Happened To

The cavalcade of animals that passed through the show began with Walter "Radar" O'Reilly, the 4077th's company clerk, getting a guinea pig as a pet by mail order. Radar was an Iowa farm boy with a deep love of animals. The producer's choice to make Radar an animal lover stemmed directly from actor Gary Burghoff's own affinity for all creatures great and small.

Actor Gary Burghoff (Radar O'Reilly) with a Furry Extra
Actor Gary Burghoff (Radar O'Reilly) with a Furry Extra

Image via Wikipedia

From that single guinea pig a tiny zoo grew. The "animal hutch" became a part of the set where Radar's collection of pets lived. He collected lost wildlife such as rabbits, raccoons, skunks, and turtles. In one episode he was even trying his hand at raising bees. The comedy of the bees was that he had named each of the bees and the scene ended with the demise of "Blitzen."

Radar's Zoo
Radar's Zoo

Image via PodBean

Radar's love of animals does get him into trouble from time to time. In one episode Radar is bit by a stray dog and has to undergo treatment for rabies. In another his tortoise ends up in the shower with Lt. Colonel Henry Blake. One of the best additions to the cast happens when Radar decides to rescue an injured horse. He wants to keep her, but this animal won't exactly fit into the hutch. So Radar gifts the horse to the new commanding officer, Colonel Sherman Potter, an old cavalry officer. As Radar put it "At least I'll get to take care of him." Yes there is a gender shift there. In the initial episode the horse is apparently a stallion. Using the magic of television the horse became a mare named Sophie.

"Here's the keys!"
"Here's the keys!"

Image via M*A*S*H Wikia

Sophie became an integral part of Potter's character. It gave the hardened Army career doctor a reason to show a softer side and gave him a "love interest" in the absence of his wife, although he also confessed the need for the occasional cold shower.

Sophie Down with Colic
Sophie Down with Colic

Image via M*A*S*H Wikia

Sophie wasn't just an incidental character. She was the inspiration and main focus of a number of episodes beyond her initial appearance. In one episode while Potter is away she comes down with colic. The condition can kill a horse so the entire camp becomes involved in getting her back on her feet. In another she is "stolen" by a Korean ex-cavalry officer trying to relive his glory days before he dies.

Colonel Potter and Sophie
Colonel Potter and Sophie

Image via M*A*S*H Wikia

What would war be without one of the dogs of war? In the episode "Mulcahy's War" the doctor's respond to a chopper with wounded only to find that one of their patients isn't human. It is a German Shepherd by the name of Corporal Cupcake. He has an injured paw from tripping a landmine to save his handler.

Corporal Cupcake
Corporal Cupcake

Image via Wordpress

The furry corporal naturally captures the interest of Radar. At this time Radar is called to an aid station at the front where he asks if they had ever had any injured dogs come through there. The response is that they hadn't had a dog but they did get an injured goat once. Radar asks what they did with it and to his horror the answer was "We ate him!"

Private Charles Lamb
Private Charles Lamb

Image via imdb

While Radar was never shown to be a vegetarian he did seem to have a strong aversion to people eating animals. When a Greek military unit shares Easter with the denizens of the 4077th they bring a lamb to be the entrée of honor. Radar goes the extra mile to save the lamb's life. He turns the animal into Private Charles Lamb, gives it a discharge, and then ships the lamb to his family's farm in Iowa. To avoid an international incident the doctors get everyone drunk on ouzo and then produce a SPAM lamb for Easter dinner.

Trapper John and Calf
Trapper John and Calf

Image via PodBean

During war time it is just natural that members of the military will interact with local indigenous personnel (LIP). On M*A*S*H that sometimes meant that the doctors doubled as veterinarians. In this episode Trapper John McIntyre delivered a "bouncing baby veal" in exchange for a gallon of mother's milk.

Irving the Alcoholic
Irving the Alcoholic

Image via Reddit

In the episode "Letters" the staff responds to letters that school children have sent them. Hawkeye's (Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce) rules are that there be no trading of letters. So when Father Mulcahy is asked about the lives he has saved he is stumped until Hawkeye reminds him of Irving. Irving was a dog with a love of drinking whiskey. Mulcahy cures the dog of his wicked ways by giving him as much as he can drink resulting in the mother of all dog hangovers. The dog then has a permanent aversion to alcohol, which no doubt saved his life. DO NOT try this at home!

Radar and his Teddy Bear
Radar and his Teddy Bear

Image via Fanport

Not all of the animals on M*A*S*H were live. One of the funniest parts of the show was how Radar, the image of innocence in the face of war, still slept with his teddy bear. The bear became a symbol of the lost youth of the boys who were sent to war only to become hardened men.

Radar and his Teddy Bear
Radar and his Teddy Bear

Image via MASH5077TV

When Radar was sent home on a hardship discharge he left his teddy bear on Hawkeye's pillow. It was symbolic of his growth as a person and leaving his innocence behind. The bear also showed up in the last regular episode of the show when it was placed in a time capsule to represent all of those who came to Korea as boys and left as men. Many years ago I saw this bear in a museum display.

Trapper and Hawkeye Go Ape
Trapper and Hawkeye Go Ape

Image via Basement Rejects

To relieve the boredom of war the characters would often engage in some hilarious hijinks. In one episode Hawkeye and Trapper entertained themselves and each other by dressing up in gorilla suits.

Hawkeye and Cow
Hawkeye and Cow

Image via MASH5077TV

When you have a war in farm country there will be cows. And where there are cows . . . well, just watch your step.

Dr. Winchester Doses Mouse with Speed
Dr. Winchester Doses Mouse with Speed

Image via M*A*S*H Wikia

Radar bets the Marines that his mouse, Daisy, can outrun their mouse, Sluggo, in a maze. Major Charles Emerson Winchester III has recently become addicted to speed (amphetamines). To ensure that Daisy is the winning mouse he doses her from his stash. Radar tells him off in no uncertain terms and all winnings are returned to the losers.

A Goat Eats the Payroll
A Goat Eats the Payroll

Image via blogspot

Klinger buys a goat with an eye to making money selling fresh milk. Hilarity ensues when the goat eats the payroll. An investigator sent to check out the loss doesn't believe Hawkeye's story and threatens to garnish his wages until every cent is paid back. To help prove that the payroll is eaten the gang set the goat up to eat a report the investigator has been working on. That cinches the idea that the goat ate the money.

Hawkeye Talks a Troubled Soldier out of Holding a Cat
Hawkeye Talks a Troubled Soldier out of Holding a Cat

Image via Cinema Cats

Cats were not common on the show, but in one episode a troubled soldier is found obsessively holding a cat and petting it. Hawkeye tries to talk the private into letting go of the cat and trading comfort for treatment. Fortunately the cat was not being hurt. The same could not be said for Hawkeye when the soldier grabs him by the neck instead.

Hawkeye Realizes what his Chicken Really is.
Hawkeye Realizes what his Chicken Really is.

Image via Funny Junk

Not all of the animals on the show were the stuff of comedy. In the final two-hour episode of the show, Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen, Hawkeye has had a mental breakdown. As psychiatrist Sidney Freedman treats him Hawkeye comes to slowly realize that his memory of a chicken being killed on a bus during a moment of crisis is really a human baby. His mind tried to protect him from the memory by making it a chicken instead. As the war ends Colonel Potter can't take Sophie home with him so he finds her a home on a nearby farm.

In 2016 actors Loretta Swit, Gary Burhoff, Mike Farrell, and Jamie Farr from M*A*S*H reunited in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida to help raise funds for Ayla’s Acres No-Kill Animal Rescue. Their love of animals reaches far beyond one television show.

Is it any wonder that this is one of my favorite TV shows?

Sources: M*A*S*H, Best Care Anywhere, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, St. Augustine

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