Being a Mongol warrior meant being a mounted archer, who shot from the saddle during a full gallop. Mongols could shoot while facing backward, or while hanging from one side of their saddle, using their armored horse as a shield.
But as they began to conquer walled cities, the Mongol army quickly mastered the many tools and techniques of siege warfare. Take a look at a few of the items in the Mongol army’s arsenal.
Mongolian Armored Warriors and Horse
In battle, horses were one of Genghis Khan’s greatest advantages. Their speed and maneuverability allowed the Mongols to ride up to 100 miles per day—a much farther distance than larger armies of foot solders could travel.
Small but powerful, Mongol horses had incredible stamina and could survive solely on grasses. Horses also provided food. Mare’s milk was made into yogurt, cheese, and airag (a fermented drink). And in emergencies, soldiers could drink their horses’ blood or eat their meat.
Bows, Arrows, Quiver
Wood, birchbark, and iron 13th-14th century National Museum of Mongolia
The Mongol warrior’s principal weapon, which he usually made himself, was the recurved composite bow. Strung against its natural curve, the short, maneuverable bow had a strong pull that delivered an exceptionally accurate shot nearly twice as far as European arrows of the time.
A quiver could contain armor-piercing arrows, flaming arrows, or ones that made a whistling sound to striker terror in their human targets.
Iron 13th-14th Century National Museum of Mongolia
Mongol armor was made of lightweight, flexible chain mail or leather plates to allow the warrior much easier movement than the full metal armor of his opponent. Underneath, a shirt of tightly woven silk kept arrows from penetrating as deeply and made them easier to pull out.
Thick, felt-lined leather boots were often interlined with armor plates as well.
The trebuchet is a variation of the catapult. To fire the trebuchet, warriors would grab the rope attached to the arm and pull the line backward, propelling the lever forward to heave a projectile at the enemy. The attachment of the projectile to a flexible sling at the end of the lever arm increased the throwing force.
The Mongols adopted this technology from the Chinese and used it to attack walled cities. Such weapons played a significant role in Mongol attacks on Korea in the 13th century.
Model of Triple-bow Siege Crossbow
Genghis Khan's successors recruited Chinese artillery engineers to adapt the Chinese siege crossbow for Mongol armies. These weapons could shoot large arrows—including incendiary arrows with a burning tip—hundreds of yards.
The operator of the weapon would draw all three bows back at the same time by turning the winch, tripling the weapon’s discharge force. Enemies of the Mongols equally employed the siege crossbow, which may have eventually contributed to the collapse of the empire by the 14th century.