How Trabuco Replaced Catapults As The Siege Weapon Of Choice

For centuries the best way to defend against an enemy was by building a giant wall to keep them out. Castles famously had tall walls and walls were built around entire cities. To deal with this the catapult was invented. It could toss projectiles at a wall with the hopes of bringing it down. Catapults didn’t have a lot of power, though, and the rocks they could fling weren’t heavy enough efficiently collapse a wall and oftentimes couldn’t do it at all.

Enter the Trabuco. This was a siege engine invented by a Chinese general who was determined to siege a city. His machine could use manpower to pull down a swinging pole while on the other end a sling held a projectile that would fly forward. This was more effective than a catapult but there was definitely room for improvement.


The concept of Trabuco’s slowly spread from China to the west over centuries according to The Byzantine empire was the first western power to make use of these. This was in the middle of the 6th century AD and before too long both Christian and Muslim empires had also adopted the Trabuco as their siege engines of choice. It took until the 12th century before somebody greatly improved upon its design.

The first use of the Counterweight Trabuco occurred in the 12th century according to These use a huge and heavy counterweight on the pole instead of human power. This was far more effective and turned Trabuco into something that could devastate enemy walls and anyone near them. A regular Trabuco could toss a boulder up to 130 lbs a distance of somewhere between 250 to 390 feet.

Counterweight Trabuco, though, could fling a rock up to 560 pounds up to 900 feet. This changed the course of warfare and made castles and their walls obsolete.

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