Throughout history, there have been many wars, fought for many different reasons. Sometimes, the reasons for going to war don’t make a whole lot of sense, as was the case back in 1925, when conflict erupted between Greece and Bulgaria. The two countries had been at odds for sometime, and strangely, it was a stray dog that almost sent them to full-fledged war. We’re guessing you probably didn’t learn about the War of the Stray Dog in high school history.
Disputes Over Land
Relations between Greece and Bulgaria had been strained from the start of the 20th century. Both countries sought possession of the regions of Macedonia and Western Thrace, and fought guerrilla wars over the territories from 1904-08. This eventually led to greater conflict between the two countries during the Second Balkan War of 1913, and once again during World War I. Ultimately, all of Western Thrace and half of the region of Macedonia would come under Greek control.
That was not the end of the dispute, however. After World War I, Bulgaria was left feeling like they had lost land that was rightfully theirs, and tensions between Greece and Bulgaria had escalated. Organizations based in Bulgarian territory launched raids and terrorist attacks into Greek territory. Meanwhile, Greece had suspicions that Bulgaria was secretly supporting a Macedonian independence movement.
It was looking like the two nations were close to war. All that was needed was one final push to put the wheels in motion. And that game in 1925, all thanks to a dog.
The War of the Stray Dog
It all started on October 18, 1925. A Greek soldier was manning his post at Demir Kapou Pass, near the border town of Petrich, Bulgaria, when he stepped into Bulgarian territory to retrieve his dog that had strayed over the border – so the story goes. The border was guarded by Bulgarian sentries, and one of them shot and killed the Greek soldier.
This led to a disorganized firefight between both sides. At one point, a Greek officer came forward with a white flag, hoping to negotiate peace. The Bulgarians didn’t seem to care though, and shot the officer as well. The skirmish ended shortly after.
In the aftermath of the event, Bulgaria explained that the firing was due to a misunderstanding and expressed its regret. And the story could have probably ended there, but Greece’s new military dictator, Theodoros Pangalos, wouldn’t let it slide. Known for his hot-temper, Pangalos instead wanted to prove he was a force to be reckoned with, and decided to retaliate for the incident. He began to mobilize troops, and issued an ultimatum to Bulgaria, giving them 48 hours to punish those responsible, issue a formal apology, and provide compensation for the incident.
Bulgaria would refuse this ultimatum, and so on October 22, Greek troops were sent to occupy Petrich and the nearby land. The Bulgarians fought back, but the Greeks maintained their control over the town and surrounding region. After evacuating from most of the area, Bulgaria appealed to the League of Nations for help.
Coming to a Resolution
The League of Nations pressured Greece to stop their invasion, and to pull out of Bulgaria. The League also demanded that Greece pay £45,000 to Bulgaria as compensation for their occupation.
Greece was not happy with these terms, as they felt they were being treated unfairly, but when the League sent out military forces from France, Italy, and Britain, they had no real choice but to comply. The conflict came to an end.
When all was said and done, the War of the Stray Dog lasted only about a week, and had fewer than 100 deaths. The Bulgarians emerged victorious, and the event served as an early chance for the League of Nations to prove its importance.
The conflict was, however, and extreme embarrassment for the Greek dictator Pangalos. He had successfully crippled Greece’s already strained international relations. Many of the officers that had helped bring Pangalos to power turned on him, deciding that he should be removed in favor of the former president, Pavlos Kountouriotis. Pangalos disappeared from public life for a while. He was eventually imprisoned in the 1930s following a corruption scandal, and he returned to the public light following the German occupation of Greece during World War II. He would die in 1952.
As for the dog? Well it was never really heard from again, but we like to think it lived a long, happy life somewhere in the Greek countryside.
Did you find this interesting? Have you heard about the war that almost happened, all because of a pig? Learn more about the Pig War – An Odd Conflict in American History.