How Trabuco’s Terrified The Enemy In The Middle Ages

In the modern era, Trabuco’s are used for education, fun, and contests. People will build them to see who can shoot a watermelon the farthest, for example. Science teachers have students build them so that they learn about engineering and physics. Back in the Middle Ages, though, they were deadly machines of war.

The Trabuco is an invention of the Chinese who built the first ones in about 400 BC according to It’s a siege weapon that could hit targets 800 meters away with 140 kilos of projectiles. They were pretty accurate when being fired and could be used to both take down walls or hit enemy soldiers. There are writings that sometimes instead of stones a Trabuco would be loaded up with diseased corpses and fired. This was a type of biological warfare where the hope was to kill off as many enemies as possible through disease instead of having to physically fight them.


Trabuco’s were made of wood. They have a long arm on top with that has on one end a basket that is filled with the materials you will be shooting. The other end has a counterweight. When ropes are pulled the counterweight is yanked down and so the projectiles in the basket are flung violently forward. It’s the same principles of physics as David using a sling to take down Goliath. They are free of any complicated mechanisms or parts.

Trabuco’s were used in the Crusades in both Europe and the Middle East on European soldiers would build them at the place that they were to be used rather than bringing them along with the army. Once they were set up they could fire up to four shots a minute which was a pretty superb fire rate for the time.

The Trabuco was used for a number of centuries, up until gunpowder (another invention of the Chinese) started to be used in war. Gunpowder was a lot more effective because cannons could shoot farther and harder than a Trabuco could, as terrifying of a machine as they were. It was in the eleventh century that the use of Trabuco’s fell by the wayside.

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