The Fearsome Mongolian Horse Archers

Mongolian horse archers were feared by everyone. Their horsebows were very powerful and accurate and they could bring down their enemy up to 160 meters away, while galloping at 45mph  The warriors could survive on very little food, they wore lamellar armor and could travel many miles each day.

mongolian horse archerMongol archery was a type of archery practiced by the nomadic horsemen of the Mongolian steppe, typically Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Mongols and Turkmens.

Mongolian horse archers are iconic figures in western archery history. The horse archer was a feared warrior because of his incredible skill with the bow and were central to the Mongolian army. 

A Mongolian army generally only fought during the summer so the rest of the time the soldiers would stay in their own ger (yurt)s and tend to their animals.

The Mongols were able to travel miles and miles without any problem thanks to their horses and they could move at a rate of 10 miles a day and still be strong enough to engage in battle when faced with an enemy.

When going into battle, a Mongolian army would line up in several different areas. The first row would contain all the bowmen and each row behind them had fewer bowmen than the row before it.

These archers were feared warriors because, over hundreds of years, they had perfected the art of the bow and the arrow as a weapon on horseback and utilized tactics and strategies far more advanced than any other army. 

They possessed the ability to bring down the enemy while riding at full gallop from 80 to 160 meters away. They carried composite bows made of horn, wood and sinew, unlike the wooden self bows like those used by english longbowmen. They also carried a quiver of 18 arrows with bone or metal points, and wore lamellar armor made from wood and leather.

Who Were The Mongols?

Mongols helped make up the numerous nomadic groups who inhabited in the large open grassland planes of Eurasia: the Steppe. All of these nomads, including the Mongols, engaged in war with each other on a regular basis, primarily for control of power, and hardly ever consolidated under the control of a single leader. 

Mongol society insisted that hunting, horseback riding and archery were skills that all successful people, including women, must master. 

Culturally, Mongols accepted the behavior and language from other steppe tribes as well as their larger, settled neighbors being the Chinese and the Koreans.

The Mongols were feared and respected through the unbelievable ferocity that they took to war as well as their freakish ability to live on almost no fo

Who Was Genghis Khan and What Did He Do?

Genghis khan was the legendary leader of the Mongol Empire and during his life he was responsible for the deaths of up to 40 million people.

A brutal and ruthless man, Genghis khan was a merciless warlord who controlled most of the known world in a brutal military campaign.

The Mongolian empire under his command expanded to an astonishingly large territory, stretching from China to the Mediterranean sea.

Genghis Khan is regarded as one of the most influential people in history, and one of the greatest conquerors as well. When he acceded to the throne in 1206, he unified the Mongol tribes and forged a huge empire.

Through the sheer terror that he wrought in his enemies and allies alike, he managed to create an empire that was as large as the whole of Europe.

In order to maintain such a vast territory, Genghis Khan established effective communication lines between his regions and developed an efficient transport system. He introduced a service that enabled riders to deliver messages throughout the empire safely and quickly.

In addition, he used modern methods to protect his territory.

Khan learnt how to ride horses at an early age, before learning to fight. He started off doing basic drills and manoeuvres but quickly progressed onto attacking live prisoners and even animals while on horseback.

How Genghis Khan Died

It’s widely believed that he died an old man of 80.

So how did such a powerful leader die?

There are many myths surrounding Genghis khan’s death, but scholars now widely believe that he succumbed to dysentery.

It is possible that he was poisoned on account of his unpopular with the aristocracy. It is also possible that he was assassinated by being thrown off a cliff.

Whichever the cause, Genghis khan was certainly a founder who built an empire that would stretch from Europe to modern day China.

Mongolian Foot Archery

In addition to horse archery, the Mongolian foot archery warriors were also feared warriors because they were the first to combine all many fighting elements into war. In addition to hand-to-hand combat training, Mongolian foot archers underwent intense training in mounted and unmounted archery.

Their archery techniques were very advanced, they used a thumb ring for shooting and a thumb guard for protection. The thumb ring was usually made of silver on some occasions it was made of hemp.

The unmounted archer training consisted of many different exercises, including ~

  • Shooting at a target
  • Shooting with the wind or against the wind
  • Shooting while walking
  • Shooting on the move. 

There were foot drills as well and these might involve ~

  • Drawing the bow with both arms and releasing an arrow with each arm
  • Shooting while squatting or kneeling
  • Training with two or three arrows at once.

Mongolian riders learned to ride without stirrups. Foot archers used their feet to unstring their bows after firing an arrow. Mongolian riders were also trained to be able to shoot from horseback.

Mongolian Archery Technique

Ancient Mongolian archery techniques – the ancient Mongolians were masters of the art of archery. their techniques were very advanced and many of them were centuries ahead of their time.

The Mongolians used the same bows and arrows, with a few variations, as their ancestors when hunting or in battle.

They preferred using composite bows over longbows because the longbows required great strength and a lot of training to draw them properly. they believed that drawing the longbow string back to the ear was the equivalent of lifting a heavy weight.

The tension on a composite bow can be adjusted by changing the thickness of the bow string.

Why Were the Mongols So Successful?

The Mongols were the most successful horsemen in history. Their various military accomplishments and tactics are still studied in military academies today. Their global empire spanned over 3,000 miles and lasted a mere century or so, but their influence on global history is undeniable. 

What made them so successful?

horse archerThey used three different styles of bows and a variety of arrows. The bows used were the powerful composite bow, a recurve bow, and a longbow.

The Mongols also had the best horses in the world so they could move faster than their enemies. 

The Mongol chainmail armor was very tough and lightweight and in order to improve accuracy, they practiced shooting using smaller targets.

Most people would agree that Mongolian horse archers were some of the most fearsome warriors in history.

Feudal European knights feared them, and their contemporaries in Mongolia and China greatly respected their abilities. It is not hard to see why.

If you think about it, each Mongol warrior was essentially a one-man army on horseback. Every male Mongol was expected to master riding, shooting, and fighting from horseback with a variety of weapons.

The Mongols mastered the most advanced composite bow in the world at that time. The war bow was of laminated construction 

which gave it greater power than any other bow, until the advent of gunpowder. 

Mongolian bows were even constructed using recurved designs, making them more powerful than the medieval English longbow.

Are Mongolian Bows Good?

Mongolian bows are often called horsebows as they were traditionally used on horseback, as one can imagine the bow and arrow was a much more effective weapon when shots could be made from a galloping horse.

Traditional Mongolian horsebows are very powerful and accurate, because they have a very large amount of draw weight and a short draw span. The traditional Mongol bows are made entirely of natural materials without any metal parts. They are very powerful, and can be drawn to the ear and held in full position for a long period of time without discomfort.

They are relatively short recurve bows, usually made of hardwood or laminated wood and horn. Draw weight is around 50-70lbs, with an overall length of 56-65”.

Mongolian recurve bows hold up well to use, there are many stories on the subject. Mongolians were hard on their equipment and the bows were often repaired numerous times during battle before being discarded.

Shooting a Mongolian Bow

The Mongolian bow is also referred to as a rider’s bow and is more stocky than other rider bows. The throwing arms have a more pronounced curve and the draw is thought of as being light with no discomfort when shooting.

The shooting action is particularly unruffled even though it is short bow.

These are the reasons why this bow was feared so much by their opponents, based on historical sources, it was deadly up to around 200 meters on a 75lb draw weight. 

A rider’s bow is small and very easy to manage so that it’s great for shooting from horseback and tight areas.

Benefits of a Rider’s Bow ~

  • A rider’s bow is small and very easy to manage so that it’s great for shooting from horseback and tight areas.
  • Shooting on horseback is a difficult exercise and provides interesting challenges
  • The firing of a horse is high
  • The hand shock you feel may be less than other bows
  • The additional equipment required is less than for other bows
  • The bow is extremely well priced
  • It’s a tough bow and can deal well with rougher use
  • The rider’s bow is lighter than most 

What Religion Were the Mongols?

The Mongols were animists and shamanists. Animists believed that non-human entities had souls and Shamanists were spiritual healers that thought that medicine shamans were able to communicate with the gods to heal the sick and predict the future. 

Genghis Khan was founder of the Mongol empire and Great Khan was emperor of the Mongol Empire. Great Khan and his followers believed in Tengrism. Tengrism included the ideas of animism, shamanism, and the worship of ancestors.  

Followers believed the original Great Khans had received an order to rule over the world from Tengri, the ruler of Heaven as well as the supreme Mongol deity. 

Though Genghis Khan and his supporters believed in Tengrism, they remained very tolerant of other religions. 

One of Genghis Khan’s wishes was to understand philosophical and moral lessons from alternate religions and so the Mongols did not persecute people were not punished by the Mongols purely because of what they believed in.

Under Genghis Khan’s rule, the small number of houses of worship were built as a result of a nomadic lifestyle. 

However, under Genghis Khan’s successor Ogedai Khan, a small number of houses of worship for Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, and Taoist followers. Eventually, Khubilai Khan funded support for Buddhist monasteries, Confucian scholarship, Islamic mosques, and Christian churches.

As the empire grew, the Mongols started to take on the religions of their subjects and Islam became generally accepted.

Who Defeated the Mongols?

Alauddin Khilji is someone everybody enjoys criticizing, but this sultan of the Delhi Sultanate was the individual who actually spared India from the mighty Mongols on no less than six occasions. He was lauded as one of the few in history to actually defeat the Mongols. 

In fact…

It wasn’t Alauddin Khalji that beat the Mongols…it was his loyal but irresponsible general Zafar Khan, who chose to defy the royal orders and went on to attack the chagatai Mongols in the battle of Kili.

They suffered immensely in this battle and he and caused them so much death and injury that they retracted after a few days and failed to return again for quite some years.

Zafar Khan was never credited with winning against the Mongols because of his blatant disregard of royal orders. His bravery was never discussed nor recorded and he was struck from the chronicles of Alauddin.

So terrorised were the Mongols by Zafar Khan’s brutal win that when their horses did not want to any drink water, the Mongols would question them by asking them if they were not drinking the water because they had seen Zafar Khan.

It is he who is the unsung hero in the battle of Kili.