Trabuco: The Weapon Of Choice In Early China And Europe

Posted on January 09, 2018

When Medieval Europeans wanted to besiege a castle, their weapon of choice may have been a weapon called a trabuco. This military-rated device was much like a catapult, though its design is arguably different.


According to, designed and developed in China, the trabuco was utilized for centuries by military ranks ranging from China, to the Arab Nations, and during the time of the Crusades. Its efficiency came from its simplicity of design and use. There were no complicated gears or wheels required in order to propel a projectile through the air and to its intended target.

Redesigned Trabuco

The original Chinese design required massive numbers of humans to begin the propulsion by pulling on a beam in order to push that side down and propel the stones toward the target. Since the original design was impractical due to the inability to command such a vast number of soldiers to work as a single unit, a second version was designed that used a counterbalance weight rather than human beings.

The original trabuco design replaced in the Middle East by Arab merchants. This is where the counterbalance was added. The addition of this weight helped the trabuco’s range, increasing it a few extra feet. Researchers have discovered records that state that, during a battle against their enemies, one such hybrid-trabuco was able to propel 400-pound stones toward Damietta, a city in Egypt.

The second-phase trabuco uses gravity and potential energy in order to create the force required to project the stone or other items far distances or over high walls. Counterbalances were connected to the end of a beam and used to help increase propulsion of the projectile.

Prevalent Uses

The Crusades, fought between 1095 AD and a questionable conclusion, either 1295 or 1588 depending on the Historian on, utilized the trabuco for their attacks against the infidel non-Christians in their quest directed from the Catholic church. They were promised the blessings of God as well as any indulgences they may desire. The threat of lost Christendom was a great catalyst to the battles.

Not only Stones

Though stones were the primary choice of projectile, creative militaries would also hurl animals like horses and cows, barrels heavy with sand, enemy heads and prisoners who were still alive. This was an effective method of reducing disease-causing corpses from infecting the troops or needing to feed prisoners.