Here Are 10 of the Pettiest Conflicts from History that Will Make You Shake Your Head
Here Are 10 of the Pettiest Conflicts from History that Will Make You Shake Your Head

Here Are 10 of the Pettiest Conflicts from History that Will Make You Shake Your Head

D.G. Hewitt - March 18, 2018

Here Are 10 of the Pettiest Conflicts from History that Will Make You Shake Your Head
Football riots escalated into full-on war between El Salvador and Honduras.

The Football War

The legendary Liverpool Football Club managed Bill Shankly once famously declared: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.” Wise words indeed when you consider how much fighting and rioting has taken place due to grievances related to the world’s most popular sport. But only once has a football match led to the start of a war, or at least been the trigger that caused long-standing tensions to finally explode into full-on fighting. That happened in June 1969, with a World Cup qualifying match between Honduras and El Salvador.

It’s important to note that, while the two nations were certainly fierce rivals on the pitch, there was much more to this than just football. In 1962, Honduras passed a milestone land reform bill that took land away from global corporations and put it back in the hands of its own people. The problem is, the law also saw huge numbers of Salvadorians lose out, too. Millions who had crossed the border to work the land were expelled from Honduras, causing bad blood between the people and their governments.

So, when the two nations met for the first of two games in June 1969, things were on the brink of boiling over. Honduras narrowly won the first match, but then El Salvador tied the series with victory in their own capital just three weeks later. Both games were accompanied by riots, though peace was preserved. However, a third game was then required, to be played in neutral Mexico City. El Salvador won the game 3-2, and then all hell broke loose. After weeks of hostile comments, El Salvador finally took action, deploying a makeshift air force. They succeeded in knocking out the Honduran air defenses and the Salvadoran ground forces also made impressive progress too.

The next day, however, Honduras hit back. It sent its own planes to attack ports and oil refineries across the border. Fortunately, sanity prevailed. Perhaps fearful that the international community would punish them both for going to war, Honduras and El Salvador sat down and agreed to a ceasefire on 20 July. In total, the fighting had lasted less than 100 hours after having been sparked off by a football match. But the effects would be felt in the region for years to come. In both countries, the military came to the fore, with defense spending up and social spending down and even today, the two countries maintain a fierce rivalry, both on and off the football pitch.

Here Are 10 of the Pettiest Conflicts from History that Will Make You Shake Your Head
Australia went to war with emus – and the emus won. IFLScience.

The Emu War

Over the centuries, nation has fought against nation, village against village and even family against family. But in the early 1930s, a whole country went to war against some animals. The ‘Emu War’ of 1932 saw Australia mobilize its troops to fight back against an avian invasion, using what was then the very latest in military technology. Victory for the Australian army would have been a formality, right? Think again.

For the typical Australian farmer, the emu was a formidable foe. Having been introduced into the country several decades earlier, by the 1920s, they had become a real menace. Not only did they eat huge amounts of crops, they also destroyed fences put down to stop rabbits. Since many farmers were World War I veterans, working the land that had been gifted to them after coming home from the bloody conflict, they believed that the problem could be easily fixed with the use of machine guns. After all, having seen for themselves the power of automatic weapons on the Western Front, they felt they would be able to fix the problem almost overnight.

Australia’s Minister of Defense, Sir George Pearce, agreed. It was he who declared war on the emus in October of 1932, though he declined the farmers’ offer of help. Instead, he deployed the army, hopeful that the exercise would not only help the farming community but serve as good target practice for the soldiers. Such high hopes were soon dashed. As well as having to deal with jammed guns and bad weather, the soldiers failed to kill the fast-moving emus. In fact, by the end of the first week of the war, just 500 birds had been killed, thousands less than the original target.

Before long, word of the army’s struggle began to spread. The newspapers mocked their ineptitude while animal-lovers condemned the war as inhumane. After the failed first onslaught, a second wave of attacks was ordered to take place in November 1932, but these were even less successful. In the battle between man and emu, the emu came out on top, much to the dismay of Australia’s farmers. To this day, the bird roams wild throughout Australia, though, for the most part, fences now succeed in keeping them off farmland.

Here Are 10 of the Pettiest Conflicts from History that Will Make You Shake Your Head
When King Alfonso XII was insulted in France, a Spanish village declared war. Random History.

The Village of Lijar Versus France

In November of 1983, a war that had been raging for 100 years finally came to an end. However, it was a conflict that caused precisely zero casualties and one which hardly anyone even knew was being fought in the first place. The belligerents? The nation of France and the tiny Spanish town of Vijar. This truly was a real David versus Goliath story, albeit one where David never had to back up his bravado with any real fighting.

This quirky episode from history began in October 1883, when King Alfonso XII of Spain was visiting Paris. Word reached Spain that their monarch had been insulted by a braying mob while in the French capital. The nation was shocked and offended. But King Alfonso himself did not want to make a diplomatic incident out of the minor affair. Not so the people of Lijar, a small town in the province of Almeria, in the south of Spain. The town’s mayor, a man named Miguel Garcia, felt he had to take a stand and so he declared war on France.

Citing the people’s resistance to Napoleon a century before, the major declared that his small village was “worth more than 10,000 Frenchmen”. Fired by his rhetoric, the people of Lijar agreed with their leader and voted unanimously to back the declaration of war. They told the Spanish government of their decision and asked that Madrid inform their counterparts in Paris.

Quite whether the message was passed on to the French leaders is another matter entirely. Certainly, it doesn’t seem to have bothered France. Over the years, not a single shot was fired or a single prisoner was taken by either side. In fact, the war was only kept alive by the people of Lijar, with fathers informing sons of the conflict. However, 100 years after it started, the townsfolk decided to extend the olive branch and call a unanimous ceasefire. France could once again breathe easy, safe in the knowledge that a community of just 580 people had no intention of invading.

Here Are 10 of the Pettiest Conflicts from History that Will Make You Shake Your Head
War of the Bucket. Alchetron.

The War of the Oaken Bucket

The people of Italy have long been infamous for their hot-headed nature and passionate temperament, not least when it comes to defending their town’s honor. So, it’s perhaps no surprise that, in 1325, two neighboring communities really did go to war over a stolen bucket, with 2,000 people killed or injured in the fighting. But, like all wars fought over seemingly trivial matters, there’s more here than meets the eye…

Fourteenth-century Italy was comprised of several city-states, chief among them Bologna and Modena. Now, as well as the usual disputes about borders and territory, these two city-states also took very different views on who should be the leader of the world’s Catholics. While Modena backed the Holy Roman Emperor, their neighbors in Bologna backed the Pope. It was this which was the underlying cause of the many skirmishes that took place during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. But the hostility never escalated above small fights at border hotspots. There was never a full-on battle, let alone a war. Until that is, some Modenese soldiers snuck across the border with designs on a precious bucket.

The bucket was installed in the main city wall, in the heart of Bologna. It was more ceremonial than practical and was usually filled with treasure and so heavily guarded. Nevertheless, the Modenese soldiers succeeded in their mission and took the bucket away with them. Humiliated, Bologna demanded it back. When Modena refused, they received a declaration of war. The two sides met at the town of Zappolino, in Bolognese territory. Despite the fact Bologna had 32,000 men and Modena just 7,000, the Battle of Zappolino ended in humiliation for them. They were routed on their own soil and, to make matters worse, another bucket was stolen from a town well.

The fighting ended as quickly as it began and the two city-states returned to a footing of cautious peace. There would, of course, be fighting in the decades and centuries to come, but the Battle of the Bucket was over in a day. The victorious Modenese held onto their trophy and to this day, a wooden bucket is proudly displayed in a Modena museum. So far, Bologna hasn’t mustered an army to win it back.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“San Juan Island: The Pig War”. National Park Service.

“Roll Over and Play Dead: The Ridiculous War of the Stray Day”. Military History Now, 2012

“The War of Jenkins’ Ear”. Daryl Worthington,, April 2015

“Pastry War”. Encyclopedia Britannica.

“The Northern War”. New Zealand History.

“Has football ever started a war?” The Guardian, February 2007.

“Little Spanish Town Offended by French Ends 100-Year War”. Tom Burns, The Washington Post, November 1983.

“Looking Back: Australia’s Emu Wars”. Jasper Garner Gore, Australian Geographic, November 2016.

“The War of the Oaken Bucket”. The Daily Beagle, March 2013.