History of Mounted Archery

Mounted archery is a type of archery where an archer shoots from a bow while riding a horse or some other riding animal. As a technique it appeared in large open areas, where it was highly successful for hunting, for protecting herds, and for war.

Mounted archery appeared for the first time during the Iron Age as a more practical replacement of the Bronze Age chariot. Evidence of early mounted archers can be found in artwork of the Neo-Assyrian Empire from the 9th century BC. Eurasian nomads, Scythians, Sarmatians, Sassanids, and Indians had mounted archers in antiquity while Mongols and the Turkic peoples had their cavalries with bows during the Middle Ages. Scythian, Hun, Parthian, Cuman or Pecheneg horsemen were light archers, Byzantin Kavallaroi, Russian Druzhina and Japanese samurai were heavy mounted archers.

Light horse archers were skirmishes which moved swiftly and, because they were able to quickly retreat, harassed the enemy.

Heavy mounted archers on the other hand, attacked as disciplined units, and after they shot five or six volleys, they would charge the enemy with close combat weapons such as lances and spears as individual warriors, or in strategically formed columns. They were dressed in chain mail or lamellar armor and helmets, with some riders even riding armored horses.

During the Medieval times, German and Scandinavian armies took advantage of a new technology; the crossbow, and incorporated that weapon with mounted fighting units. They were used as scouts and skirmishers, for protection of the flanks of knights and foot infantry, and to chase away the enemy light cavalry. They would also charge the enemy flank, riding in close to fire a volley at the enemy flank before carving their way through enemy ranks with swords and axes.

Defense against the mounted archers were foot archers. Archers or crossbowmen on foot could out shoot archers riding a horse, which made them a naturally larger target. Because of that, many armies tried to have enough foot archers and crossbowmen as an active defense against enemy mounted archer units.

In time, mounted archers became obsolete for the same reason foot archers did with the introduction of a new battlefield technology; gunpowder, and subsequently, the advent of firearms. In the 16th century, the first firearms appeared and although they could not be fired as fast as arrows, and were unreliable when deployed in wet weather, but firearms did have incredible range and stopping power with immense armor penetration, something arrows did not. 

When lighter and more advanced variants of early firearms appeared, these weapons were adopted by the cavalry, particularly by 16th century Dragoons. These were early "Carabiners," mounted soldiers equipped with only a firearm, and did not typically engage the enemy in close combat. North American Native American Tribes were renouned for their use of bows and mounted archery as a primary means of fighting. The participation of these fierce and brave warriors in the French and Indian wars was paramount in the successful defeat of the French army, ensuring near-total control of the greater Canadian regions by the British Empire. Bows and crossbows remained parallel in use until the invention of repeating firearms, and disappeared altogether as a practical battlefield weapon until reintroduced recreationally in modern days. 

Modern horseback archery was revived in 1921 in Mongolia after their Independence. Foundation of the Mongolian Horseback Archer Association tries to keep mounted archery alive today. Its members have competed in South Korea and Europe. In Europe, Hungary holds several schools of mounted archery, whose pupils participate in competitions and meetings around the world. These competitions are held in Hungary, Germany and other Central European countries. Competitions are also held in Canada, the United States and in South Korea.

There are Different “Schools” of horseback of archery as a sport; 

- The “Kassai School” or “Hungarian Technique, which uses the Western method of shooting “around the bow” and a three-fingered release where the arrow rests over the back of the left hand. In this style, the bow is held in the right hand.

- The “Korean” style, typically involves western principles of shooting, however focuses on shooting at a moving target.

- The Traditional Japanese style of “Yabusame,” uses very long bows (sometimes twice the height of its wielder) with blunt and round-shaped arrows, which make a loud noise when striking a target board. It was revealed in the Edo Period (1600-1867) by Ogasawara Hebei Tsuneharu as a method of personal development, rather than a military training technique.


"Courage above all else, is the first quality of a Warrior..."

​                                                   - Sun Tzu

  • Burning the Past2:48