Building Zeppelins Took a Lot of Guts

cow zeppelin
photo credit: Alexander Sovpel. Used by permission.

During much of World War I, sausage consumption was illegal in Germany. The reason was to preserve the supply of cow intestines, which were needed to seal Zeppelins and prevent hydrogen from leaking from the vehicle.

Ultimately, 140 Zeppelins were constructed. Each one required the intestines of 250,000 cows.

The Zeppelins themselves posed minimal military value. As a result of the 35,000,000 cows who gave their lives for the airships, Zeppelins claimed 1,500 human lives through bombing raids from 1915-1917.

Surprisingly, these floating bovine balloons were rather difficult to bring down. Simply shooting a bullet through the vehicle’s skin was insufficient, because the relatively small hole, compared to the massive size of the ship itself, made little difference. It wasn’t until the British designed a combination tracer/exploding bullet capable of tearing open the hydrogen bags and allowing sufficient oxygen to enter that the era of the Zeppelins came to an abrupt — and explosive — end.

The end of the Zeppelins meant a sudden spike in the sausage market. Butchers were happy. Sausage lovers were happy. The cows failed to see much of a difference.


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