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World History's Stupidest Wars Include One Fought Over a Pig

Pigs, buckets, and dogs were flash points for conflicts that could have been easily avoided.

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

There are a lot of good reasons humans have gone to war in the past few centuries, believe it or not. Halting or preventing genocides, declaring independence to give oppressed people a homeland, and of course, defending one's homeland from an invader would all be good reasons to take up arms against another country.

But these wars, presented in no particular order, were none of those things.

The War of the Oaken Bucket

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  • Photo Credit: Alchetron

While the War of the Oaken Bucket sounds more like a college gameday rivalry, it was really a medieval war between two Italian states, Bologna and Modena, that killed 2,000 people in 1325. It was really a proxy war between supporters of the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy and before I get too far into the details here, what you really need to know is that it was supposedly started after some Modenese soldiers took the bucket from Bologna's town well.

Even dumber is lopsided victory the Modenese won in defending that bucket. At the Battle of Zappolino, some 32,000 Bolognese marched on 7,000 Modenese–and were chased from the battlefield.

Most accounts of the time more accurately pinpoint the start of this war as the Modenese conquering of the castle of Monteveglio, after which the eponymous bucket was stolen. But the infamous bucket remains in our hearts nonetheless.

Related: The 5 Stupidest Losses Of The American Civil War 

The Pig War

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  • The Belle Vue sheep farm on San Juan Island at the time of The Pig War.

    Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This is a war that could have devolved into a much larger conflict, making it even stupider than it initially sounds. San Juan Island, between the mainland United States and Canada's Vancouver Island, was shared by both American settlers and British employees of the Hudson Bay Company. While the island was "shared" in practice, both countries made a claim to the northwestern island, creating a lot of tensions in the region. Those tensions boiled over in June 1859 when an American farmer shot a British boar for tearing up his potato crop. Arguments ensued and the farmer was almost arrested by the British.

The US Army got wind of the situation and sent Capt. George Pickett (later of Pickett's Charge fame) with a company of soldiers, who promptly declared the island American property. Of course the British responded by sending in its trump card, the Royal Navy. For weeks, it appeared the standoff would spark a greater war between the two powers, but cooler heads prevailed and the sides took joint custody of the island.

Today, the San Juan Islands are a part of the State of Washington, where they are a key tourist attraction.

Related: 10 War Books That Enlighten, Move, and Educate Their Readers

War of the Stray Dog

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  • Demir Kapia, where original incident took place. 

    Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Another war that is exactly what it sounds like, except this one really did cause a number of deaths, as well as a 1925 fight that saw 20,000 Greeks meet 10,000 Bulgarians on the battlefield.

The catalyst was a dog that had gotten away from a Greek soldier. The soldier chased after the dog, even as it ran across the Greek border. Bulgarian border guards, seeing a Greek soldier running through their territory, of course shot him.

The Greeks then began an invasion of Bulgaria, occupying border towns and preparing to shell and take the city of Petrich before the League of Nations intervened, negotiating a cease fire.

Related: Meet the Mercy Dogs of World War I