The Great Emu War of 1932

Bryan Dugan
ThinkStock / ThinkStock

The emu appears prominently on the Australian coat of arms, but at one time, the country wasn't so proud to be home to the largest population of the species.

To reintegrate soldiers back into civilian life after World War I ended, Australia gave veterans land to farm in the western part of the country. Harvest went off without a hitch until the Great Depression hit in 1929, when the government pressured farmers to increase their wheat yields and promised assistance in the form of subsidies. Wheat prices plummeted and the subsidies never came. But something else did come: 20,000 emus that consumed crops and destroyed farmlands.

The desperate farmers pleaded for help from the Ministry of Agriculture, but ended up finding a potential answer to their problem with the Ministry of War, which sent two regiments of soldiers, machine guns, and 10,000 rounds of ammunition to annihilate the flightless, 6-foot-tall beasts .

But things didn't go as planned: The swarm of birds scattered and disappeared into the scenery. Bullets were wasted, and attempts to gather the emus into a mass-slaughtering trap failed. Eventually, on November 9, 1932, a Western Australian representative told Parliament that the emus had won the war.