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Encyclopedia > Horse archer

A horse archer (or horsed archer, mounted archer) is a cavalryman armed with a bow. The horse archer was the archetypical warrior of the Eurasian steppe. Image File history File links Wiki_letter_w. ... Soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback in combat are commonly known as cavalry (from French cavalerie). ... A bow is an ancient weapon that shoots arrows powered by the elasticity of the bow. ... The steppe extends roughly from the Dniepr to the Ural or 30 to 55 degrees eastern longitude, and from the Black Sea and the Caucasus in the south to the temperate forest and taiga in the north, or 45 to 55 degrees northern latitude. ...


Basic features

 A Timurid drawing of an Ilkhanid horse archer. Signed (lower right) Muhammad ibn Mahmudshah al-Khayyam Iran, early 15th century Ink and gold on paper
A Timurid drawing of an Ilkhanid horse archer. Signed (lower right) Muhammad ibn Mahmudshah al-Khayyam Iran, early 15th century Ink and gold on paper

Since using a bow requires a horseman to let go of the reins with both hands, horse archers need superb equestrian skills. Horse archery is typically associated with equestrian nomads of the Euro-Asian steppe. It was originated among Iranians of the steppes who employed horse archers prior to their migration to the Iranian plateau. Such were the Scythians and Sarmatians and later by the Parthians. Scythians were well known for their tactic of the Parthian shot, but evidently it was the Parthians who give it its name.[1] In this tactical manoeuvre the horsemen would make a feigned retreat and progress away from the pursuing enemy while turning his upper body and shooting backwords at the pursuer, in opposite direction of his own path of advancement, steering his horse with only the pressure implemented by his legs Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Flag of the Timurid Empire according to the Catalan Atlas c. ... Khanates of Mongolian Empire: Il-Khanate, Chagatai Khanate, Empire of the Great Khan (Yuan Dynasty), Golden Horde The Ilkhanate (also spelled Il-khanate or Il Khanate) was one of the four divisions within the Mongol Empire. ... A young rider at a horse show in Australia. ... A Horse people is a nomadic or semi-nomadic ethnicity, typically inhabiting the Eurasian steppes, with an emphasis on horse breeding and horse riding. ... The Euro-Asian Steppe, also known as the Euroasian Steppe or the Eurasian Steppe (sometimes referred to collectively as The Steppes or The Steppe) is the terms often used to describe the vast steppe ecoregion of Eurasia stretching from the western borders of the steppes of Hungary to the eastern... A steppe in Western Kazakhstan in early spring In physical geography, a steppe (Russian: - , Ukrainian: - , Kazakh: - ), pronounced in English as , is a plain without trees (apart from those near rivers and lakes); it is similar to a prairie, although a prairie is generally considered as being dominated by tall grasses... Topographic map of the Iranian plateau connecting to Anatolia in the west and Hindu Kush and Himalaya in the east The Iranian plateau is a major geologic formation in West Asia between Anatolian Plateau in the northwest and the Indian Subcontinent in the southeast. ... Scythian warriors, drawn after figures on an electrum cup from the KulOba kurgan burial near Kerch. ... Sarmatia and Scythia in 100 BC, also shown is the extent of the Parthian Empire. ... Parthia[1] (Middle Persian: اشکانیان Ashkâniân) was a civilization situated in the northeast of modern Iran, but at its height covering all of Iran proper, as well as regions of the modern countries of Armenia, Iraq, Georgia, eastern Turkey, eastern Syria, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, the Persian Gulf... The Parthian shot (or Parthian shaft) was a tactic employed by ancient Persian horse archers. ... Military tactics is the collective name for methods of engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. ...

Horse archery was mostly common among Euroasian steppe people like the Scythians, Huns, Magyars, Mongols, Turks and so on, but was also adopted by other people and armies. Different types of horse archery were known in Native North American tribes and in Japan, where mounted archery is called Yabusame. Scythian warriors, drawn after figures on an electrum cup from the KulOba kurgan burial near Kerch. ... The Huns were a confederation of Central Asian equestrian nomads or semi-nomads. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The name Mongols (Mongolian: Mongol) specifies one or several ethnic groups. ... Native Americans (also Indians, Aboriginal Peoples, American Indians, First Nations, Alaskan Natives, Amerindians, or Indigenous Peoples of America) are the indigenous inhabitants of The Americas prior to the European colonization, and their modern descendants. ... Yabusame Archer Yabusame (流鏑馬) is a type of Japanese archery, one that is performed while riding a horse. ...

Horse archery is the earliest form of cavalry weaponry. The Iron Age horse was not strong enough to bear an armoured rider, being little larger than modern ponies. Horse archers replaced the Bronze Age chariot, which allowed mobile attacks even with horses too small to bear a man. Other light cavalry saw only limited use in Classical Antiquity (the Roman Equites) and heavy cavalry was introduced only in Sassanid times (3rd or 4th century). Iron Age Axe found on Gotland This article is about the archaeological period known as the Iron Age, for the mythological Iron Age see Iron Age (mythology). ... A Shetland Pony A pony is any of several horse breeds with a specific conformation and temperament. ... The Bronze Age is a period in a civilizations development when the most advanced metalworking has developed the techniques of smelting copper from natural outcroppings and alloys it to cast bronze. ... Hittite chariot (drawing of an Egyptian relief) Approximate historical map of the spread of the chariot, 2000 –500 BC. A chariot is a two-wheeled, horse-drawn vehicle. ... An army unit consisting of mounted soldiers are commonly known as cavalry. ... An equestrian (Latin eques, plural equites - also known as a vir egregius, lit. ... An army unit consisting of mounted soldiers are commonly known as cavalry. ... Sassanid Empire at its greatest extent The Sassanid dynasty (also Sassanian) was the name given to the kings of Persia during the era of the second Persian Empire, from 224 until 651, when the last Sassanid shah, Yazdegerd III, lost a 14-year struggle to drive out the Umayyad Caliphate...

Appearance in history

Ottoman Horse Archer
Ottoman Horse Archer

The typical employment of horse archers in battle was in the manner of skirmishers; lightly-armed missile troops capable of moving swiftly to avoid close combat or to deliver a rapid blow to the flanks or rear of the foe. Due to the superior speed of mounted archers, troops under fire from horse archers were unable to respond to the threat without ranged weapons of their own, resulting in casualties, morale drop and disruption of the formation. When retreating after each shot to avoid return fire, horse archers were generally proven to be effective against heavily equipped infantry, especially in hot, flat, treeless regions where heavily armoured troops were at a severe disadvantage, when confronted with mobile forces of mounted archers. In fact, the only threats to horse archers were arrows and other light cavalry forces. A famous tactic was the Parthian shot, turning away from an enemy while continuing to shoot (for this reason, the term parthian arrow can also apply to a particularly nasty parting remark). Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Woodcut by Melchior Lorch (1646), originally engraved in 1576. ... Skirmishers are infantry soldiers who are stationed ahead or to the sides of a larger body of friendly troops. ... Infantry of the Royal Irish Rifles during the Battle of the Somme in World War I. Infantry are soldiers who fight primarily on foot with small arms in organized military units, though they may be transported to the battlefield by horses, ships, automobiles, skis, or other means. ... The Parthian shot (or Parthian shaft) was a tactic employed by ancient Persian horse archers. ...

Horse archers played a pivotal role in the Battle of Carrhae and again in the medieval Battle of Legnica. In both cases, horse archers won the day because their opponents depended on direct contact. Due to the heavy armour worn by Western troops, they had difficulty facing the more mobile, missile-armed cavalry of Eastern nations, as shown by numerous examples during the Crusades. The medieval Battle of Hattin, for instance, is an example of horse archers contributing to the defeat of armoured troops, via demoralization and continued harassment. Combatants Roman Republic Parthia Commanders Marcus Licinius Crassus †, Publius Crassus † Surena Strength 35,000 Roman legionnaires 4,000 cavalry 4,000 light infantry 9,000 cavalry archers 1,000 Cataphract Casualties 20,000 dead 10,000 captured 4,000 wounded Minimal The Battle of Carrhae was a decisive battle fought... Combatants Mongol Empire Diversionary force Alliance Polish states Knights Templars Knights Hospitaller Teutonic Knights (disputed) Commanders Baidar and Kadan Henry II the Pious† Strength Estimated between 8,000-20,000 (max of two tumen)[1] Unknown, estimates have ranged from 2,000-40,000[1] Casualties Unknown, but supposedly heavier... The Siege of Antioch, from a medieval miniature painting, during the First Crusade. ... Combatants Ayyubids Kingdom of Jerusalem Commanders Saladin Guy of Lusignan Raymond III of Tripoli Strength Est. ...


The weapon of choice for horse archers was the composite bow, originating with the Xiongnu, because it was compact enough to shoot from a horse while retaining sufficient range and penetrating power. A drawback of horse archery was that the movements of a running horse disturbed the accuracy of the shot. The horse archer needed to time his shots between the strides of the horse. After the invention of the stirrup, horse archers would stand up in their stirrups to absorb the motion of the horse. The actual aiming and shooting is done at the gallop, in the phase where the horse has all four feet off the ground. The skill required to shoot effectively while performing maneuvers took extensive practice. The Mongols were known for the value they placed on this and Mongol youths took part in frequent training in horsemanship and archery, for this very purpose. To this day, advanced horsemanship and associated skills are practiced in central Asia and are displayed at festivals. Horseback archery has also been revived by modern Hungarians. A composite bow is made from different materials laminated together, usually applied under tension. ... A Xiongnu belt buckle. ... Haniwa horse statuette, complete with saddle and stirrups, 6th century, Kofun period, Japan. ... The name Mongols (Mongolian: Mongol) specifies one or several ethnic groups. ... Equestrianism relates to the riding of horses. ... In Target Archery, the object is to hit targets such as this to score points. ...

Horse archers were eventually rendered obsolete by the development of modern firearms. In the 16th and subsequent centuries, various cavalry forces armed with firearms gradually started appearing. Considering that the conventional arquebus and musket were too awkward for a cavalryman to use, lighter weapons such as the carbine had to be developed, that could be effectively fired from horseback, much in the same manner as the recurve bow was a development over earlier bows. The 16th century Dragoons and Cuirassiers were heavy cavalry equipped with firearms. A firearm is a kinetic energy weapon that fires either a single or multiple projectiles propelled at high velocity by the gases produced by action of the rapid confined burning of a propellant. ... Japanese arquebus of the Edo era (teppo) The arquebus (sometimes spelled harquebus, harkbus[1] or hackbut; possibly related to German Hakenbuechse or Dutch Haakbus) was a primitive firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. ... Muskets and bayonets aboard the frigate Grand Turk. ... A carbine is a firearm similar to, but generally shorter and less powerful than, a rifle or musket of a given period. ... A light dragoon from the American Revolution A dragoon is a soldier trained to fight on foot, but transport himself on horseback. ... Cuirassiers were mounted cavalry soldiers equipped with armor and firearms, first appearing in late 15th-century Europe. ...

Basic Strategies

The basic strategy used by most civilizations was the 'shoot and run', where the horse archers would come in range of the enemy lines, fire and retreat if they were chased or came too close to the enemy infantry or heavy cavalry. This was brutally effective against heavy infantry or heavy cavalry that were well-armed but couldn't reach the mounted archers. The best way to counter horse archers was to use light, fast cavalry that could reach the archers, or longer range missiles where retreating didn't stop casualties. Horse archers were also used to hit supply lines and hurry retreating troops.


  1. ^ Basirov O., The Origin of the Pre-Imperial Iranian Peoples, (LINK); accessed Jan 16, 2007

See also

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