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History Dog Tags

The sort of first dog tags were given to the Legionnaires upon their enrollment. At that time, the Latin designation of the “signaculum” was used for this type of tags. The legionnaire dog tag was a lead-disc with a leather strap that legionaires wore around their neck. The dog tags contained information about the name of the recruiter and the name of the legion that the recruiter became a part. This procedure, together with the enrollment in the recruitment list, took place at the beginning of the four-month probation period, called "probatio". The recruiter was given military status only after the promise of loyalty, which was called the sacramentum. This promise took place at the end of "probatio". If we look at the whole process from a legal point of view, the "signaculum" was given to an entity that was no longer civilian but not yet in the army.



If we take a look to a closer history, the Chinese army has had dog tags in the middle of the 19th century. During the rebellion in Taiping (1851-66), the dog tags wore both enemy parties - Chinese Imperial soldiers and Taiping rebels. Both camps wore uniforms wit a wooden dog's tags. The tags contained the name of a soldier, age, place of birth, and date of assignment.


During the American Civil War in 1861-1865 some soldiers pinched paper labels with their name and address on the backs of their coats, others had identification on the knapsacks or scratched them in the soft lead backing of their army belt buckle. This was an opportunity for manufacturers who began to produce identification tags and advertise them in periodicals. The tags mostly reported about the function of their service in the army, the name and the unit they belonged to.


The Prussian Army began issuing identification stamps for its troops at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. They were nicknamed the Hundemarken (German equivalent for dog tags). It is interesting that around the same time period there were introduced a similar system for dogs in the capital of Prussia.




  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Dog tag," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (z 15.10. 2017)
  2. "Il Giuramento romano". Imperium Romanum. Retrieved March 25, 2016. Southern, Dixon (1996). The Late Roman Army. Batsford. pp. 74–75.
  3. Heath I., Perry M. The Taping rebellion 1851-66; Men-at-arm series 275; Osprey 1994
  4. McCormick, David (2012). Inventing Military Dog Tags.

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