Horse archers – the unbeatable troops?
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Horse archers – the unbeatable troops?

August 19, 2019

years ago I was sitting in the lecture theatre hearing a lecture about prehistoric forts and we were shown lots of slides and a lot of them showed vertical walls with a sort of sloping bit at the bottom of them on the outside like that and the lecturer was saying so you can see that what this is forests for stopping horsemen getting close to the walls and I interrupted and I said why would they be frightened of horsemen getting close to the walls what’s the horsemen meant to do when he gets quite close to a fortress wall hit it with his sword why would that be a threat to the castle and ten marks for the lecturer he said yeah yeah very low I think it was a good point there and he accepted it and carried on um you see horse archers and wallowed cavalry in general completely rubbish at taking fortifications now another conversation I was having with someone about wargaming many years ago he just said Paul just get an army of path Ian’s his idea is he was that path Ian’s were just invincible on the battlefield because there’s nothing you can do to them path is he had lots and lots of horse archers and if you charge low the Parthian they’re on light horses they just fall back and they can fall back faster than you can charge particularly for heavy infantry or something and all the time they’re twanging arrows at you wearing you down you can’t catch them and they can just ride up to you whenever they want twang twang time time train ride off and with a passing shot ring even trying at you over the shoulders as they were treating all the big cheats and remember remember care I you know so yeah and so this is an idea that got internal people’s heads about which I think a lot of rubbish was written which was that the horse Archer was completely dominant the invincible force on the battlefield except they weren’t I put it to you that in fact the horse Archer just as the horse Archer like lots of cavalry is pretty useless for taking a fortification the horse archer is actually pretty useless for lots of other applications as well so for instance there’s a hill for some reason you want to hold that hill okay so for defending a point your load of horse archers on that hill okay great and then a load of heavy infantry come trundling up the hill and one of the horse archers can do well they they could of course slaughter all they ever hit all the heavy infantry to a man just by trying in loads of our adapt them but in fact archery was not that effective okay so what are they going to do now then the heavy infantry is coming really close well they can fall back I didn’t get us well no the heavy which we doesn’t get the light cavalry the light cavalry gets away but the heavy infantry secures the position it was after it captures the hill for defending a hill or almost any point against determined enemy horse archers are a bit rubbish really so you can’t defend stuff with them okay what if you need to take a position quickly so the the horse Archer commander is told quickly we need to take that Hill off the enemy you know you see is on top of the hill with loads of let’s make it heavy infantry again okay and how do you do it quickly I mean yes you could ride around on the round and around the enemy and eventually either cause them so many casualties that they run away or you actually shoot them all but that’s pretty unlikely to happen so if you want to take any position quickly off the enemy now horse archers really aren’t the thing either so you can’t defend and you can’t attack quickly with them okay um what it might defeat horse such as well um how about foot archers you see if I got a bow and I’m standing on my own two feet on the ground there can be another guy just there another guy just there and several guys behind me as well and they can be shooting over my head and we can all be shooting loads and loads and loads of hours really dense storms of arrows far far denser than you can ever manage or with off a horse because the horses is there galloping around need a lot of room and so they’re not going to be shooting quite as fast and then not be creating anything like the density of arrows in the air and a horse is quite a big target and very difficult to armor so will be very vulnerable to arrows itself and if you’re galloping along on a horse then your accurate range honor or with your bow is not going to be as good as the range of a foot archer so the foot archers will out range you and I’ll shoot you and you are more vulnerable to their weapons because of this law expensive largely unarmored horse that you’re riding so in fact horse archers are not that great yes they did occasionally prove themselves extremely useful and though there are victories to the Huns and the Mongols and the Parthians and so forth but if they were really so utterly dominant why didn’t everyone just use horse archers all the time they didn’t there were quite a few solutions to the problems of enemies having horse archers now of course the horse Archer as part of an army was very useful because you could use them first Scouts of her harrying the enemy and for slowing him down and wearing him down attacking him on the March there are loads of useful things that horse archers could do but the idea that horse archers were this super dominant type of soldier is I think a bit I think it’s wrong lyndie Bay you

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  1. Apparently the mongol horse archers often dismounted and sat down when fighting enemy foot archers
    + great examples of 'hill > horse archers' is Publius Ventidius Bassus' battles against Parthia

  2. My father who's not a historian said the slopes had the purpose of making it more difficult to put a ladder against the wall… and when you think about it makes sense.

  3. Many such armies were built out of tribe nations, who were very flexible and not necessarily bound to living in one particular place, so the need to defend a specific location was smaller than in the European context. Horse archers were less useful for more urbanized civilization.

  4. this is sort of ridiculous, sounds like ha is mediocre at best. i call bs, the fact is ha beats all melee inf, short range inf (like javs), medium to super heavy cav, and is only countered by archers, fast light cav and advantage in terrain, thats it! now few more points that tip the scale- ha can quickly be transformed into just… archers. yes, those people on horse can also use their legs and walk and run and so forth. and i bet they are superb archers. and since every ha army is also a melee cav army, so there u got some inf and archers to atatck walls, simple war tools like ladder OP. another thing when he talks about ha vulnerability against archers- have you heard about heavy horse archer? its basically ha with added armor to horse and rider. simple and effective, it slows down hha so medium and even maybe heavy cav can catch up, but archer and light cav threat is gone. and these hha were usually supported by either light ha (Cumans) or super heavy cav(, so the only threats of super heavy cav is gone too. not to mention hha can fight as heavy cav after few volleys (oh wait, thats what they did, historically, hmmmmmmm) ha and hha can fill many roles in any army, stand up to most troop types on historical battlefields, and actually steam roll through majority of them with superiority, with minor losses.

    ha is most op troop type in existence of pre gunpowder warfare. most versatile, least vulnerable.

    prove me wrong, change my mind.

  5. Ehhh sorry I don’t buy this one. For anyone whose looked into the history of the mongol empire it’s clear exactly how dominant horse archers really were.

  6. Stupid video. If the opponent have foot archers then the cavalry will just charge. it's elementary knowledge that cavalry beats artillery. Wasted my time watching your video hoping to get something worthy. Also your question as to why, if cavalry archers are so good, many civilization didn't have them. It's because they are expensive. That's like saying if the nuclear bomb is so effective, why don't all the countries own them?

  7. Foot archers are just gonna get run over by cavalry.
    And cavalry would have more range with the same bow, at speed.

  8. Cavalry are a shock troop. You throw them in first in a battlefield engagement before infantry engagement. Best for raids like the Mongols used them for

  9. Lindy, sweety, most civilians didn't live in fortifications. The peasants and other important industrial targets were OUTSIDE fortifications, in the land surrounding castles. You can sit fortified for as long as you want, but your civilian population, your food supplies, farms, wells, etc. Are fucked.

    Thank god you weren't a military leader of old. Your people would be screwed.

  10. Wrong I watched horse archers take down a tank battalion wile defending against A-10s! Beat that Light Brown Loyd!

  11. would they not have other weapons with cavalry like garracho and archers together? Also they used trained their horses to fight. People didn't use cavalry because unlike machines horses take YEARS to train to that level and so do horsemen …its expensive

  12. If the horse archers were not effective in many situation, how could the mongols, or the huns capture those very big theritories?
    For example, if a horse archer army fight on a field, probably in most cases they will win. Why? Because they lived with horses, and fight, like no other army, before modern times. Not all of the soldiers were good, for horse archers.
    (Sorry about my English, I am Hungarian)

  13. Why can’t they just use fire arrows on horse back.. pretty sure they are useful against heavy infantries?

  14. Also…. If only a Gatling gun mechanism for arrows were invented.. they could be mounted on horse chariots… damn

  15. mongols relied a lot on archer horses and they were there major weapon and one of the major reasons for their success. they were really unstoppable accept if you use the same tactics and that is how the mamluks defeated them.

  16. I remember playing Stronghold: Crusader, those horsed archers where my go-to almost everytime, they were unstoppable in numbers… until I got tired of how easy it was to defeat the enemy

  17. Horse archers are the best when your target IS the enemy army. when your target is something else (like a position, or whatever) the'yre not as useful. Basically if you're using horse archers force an open field battle and send scouts to see if the enemy is using foot archers, if they are just give the horse archers any melee weapon and bang no archer formation

  18. "Foot archers will outrange you and outshoot you". …Emm… not necessarily. Most of horse archers were equipped with recurve bows which are much faster and more powerful (hence better range). And most of mounted archers throughout a history were doing nothing else i their lives except riding on a horse and shooting people indiscriminately (Hunns, Tatars, Mongols etc). And they were much better at this activity than let say English archer who practices his bow mastery once-twice a week in between other things in his life.

  19. Horse archers would never be used to hold a hill that was just silly…. you would let the heavy inf take the hill then cut off their supply lines by endlless harrying them with the horse archers and starve them out on the hill who cares if they have a hilll its only valuable if u go for it…. Heavy inf without food is useless and even if they counter charge u now have them off the hill and let endless skirmish begin again dont see y that makes horse archers bad all you did is out line a terrible commander!

  20. ntm if horse archers were so bad at wining y did gengis use them to conquer the most land out of any conqueror in history…

  21. Furthermore a far better point as to why horse archers are ineffective is Forest battles the thick forests of eastern europe are the bane to a horse archer, those in forests can still espcape the harrass of horse archers they can also forage forests for food so its difficult to win attrition battles and one can also hide and outwit them, however those on hills or walls need supplies to exist in those defensible positions so if thats ur opponent and all you have is horse archers would you not just cut off their supply lines effectively making the walls pointless if enough time is spent doing this?

  22. An army of horse archers could ravage the entire land, all the crops, farms, small villages. A recreational army is never going to catch them or be able to engage in combat with them. If they get too close they'll get shot and if you sit in a castle or fortress they will begin constructing siege while pillaging your entire lands. What do you do to defeat this, it is essentially unbeatable.

  23. At this point, I don't know whether this is a joke or not.

    What did horse archers do once surrounding a foritication of any kind? Well, quite likely what western cavalry did, got their asses out of their saddles, went on foot, had the specialists of their army make siege weapons, and then went on with it. Honestly, what else? If the same approach is used, what did, say, a European foot archer do? Shoot arrows at the walls until they fell? Or a European horseman? Charge up a ladder on his horse? If so, how did anyone at any point in history conquer forts?

    About Parthians and field battles, say an army of horse archers attack whatever region, for loot most likely, and the defending army, consisting mainly of infantry, comes to save the day. Say, there is a hill on the battlefield, which is tactically advantegous, and the defenders got there first/pushed the horsemen out of there and have formed up. Now what urge, what need would the horse archers have, to just go and rush that hill? Why would they do that?Why not wait and draw out the enemy, or feign an attack which would likely draw out some of the less patient commanders to the open field. Or, as in the majority of the cases, horsemen were not on the defensive, but the offensive, why not just gallop past them, and continue plundering without giving a damn about an army not able to reach them?

    About foot and horse archers, say, there are only these two on the battlefields (and some unit preventing the horse archers charging into the foot archers' formation, you know, with their swords, sabers, and the like), you say foot archers can fire more densely. Well, sure, but horse archers can then fire more loosely and still have a high chance of hitting somebody in a dense formation. Also, they have one thing foot archers do not, maneuverability. They could better evade volleys as a whole, then a few blokes, standing at the same place. Furthermore, if there was a foot archer from anywhere, and a nomadic/semi-nomadic horse archer, who would spend a quite considerable amount of his life riding horses and shooting superior bows, my money would be on the latter.

    And this brings us to the next point. Quote: "If they (horse archers) were really so utterly dominant, why didn't everyone just use horse archers all the time?" Well, where to begin? Might it be due to cultural, conventional, or technological differences? I would really love to see anyone using a longbow on a horse while on the galop to any effect whatsoever. Why did only the people use horse archers, who have had their war cultures built around horses, archery and horse archery? Why not the western society, where proper horses were quite expensive and reserved for the wealthy classes, who culturally and tecnologically preferred a vastly different style of combat?

    On the off-chance you read this, I'm curious about what you'd reply. Also, I'd heartily recommend the following for a read on the matter: Mongol Siege Warfare on the Banks of the Euphrates and the Question of Gunpowder (1260-1312) from Kate Raphael Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Can be read for free here after registering:

  24. so, in resume, stop begin so sutpid about horse archers, they were primitive armies (Mongols) who defeated nomadic enemies in the largest stepe on the world, but were useless aganist modern europeans armies, thats why they never entered europe

  25. Man I will never get Bored watching this channel
    This man has so much passion to talk about and explain war history and It feels like he is actually my history teacher much respect for your passion and knowledge lindy and I have learned so much from this channel alone and to me knowledge about history is a very worthfull and important if not necessary thing to have in life
    So thank you for these videos !

  26. Horseback archers like Huns and Mongolians happened to have more effective bows (recurves) with higher effective range. That was the main weapon, and the role of horses was to maintain a correct distance from the enemy where only the recurves could be used efficiently.

  27. The reason they didn’t want horses beside the walls is so they could shoot them without reaching down and exposing themselves

  28. Horse archers are like the russians. You can beat them to shit, easily, in a straight on battle. But they'll just run. They'll sack their own towns and retreat until you run out of resources.

    Altough to offset their huge hitbox so to say, they do move quite a lot faster than most targets. So they're not THAT easy to hit.

  29. Horse archers are like the russians. You can beat them to shit, easily, in a straight on battle. But they'll just run. They'll sack their own towns and retreat until you run out of resources.

    Altough to offset their huge hitbox so to say, they do move quite a lot faster than most targets. So they're not THAT easy to hit.

  30. The slope ramp in front of wall is to make siege ladders unable to get close to the wall. Use cavalry against wall is something I find funny in movies. There was a movie that showed large group of winged hussars charging toward a well walled town. I was very curious while watching about what they were going to do at the bottom of the wall. Well, needless to say they did nothing until the draw bridge was lowered and they charged in over it in single file. The end was a well placed chain shot from defending canon wiped them out. Wasn't effective at all…

  31. Slaughtering heavy infantry?
    How many arrows are they carrying if you want to penatrate shields and armor?

  32. Well if you use them in a static warfare the ofc they are bad!. They weren’t “invented” for that purpose.. they were meant for raid attack in small or
    bigger clashes where there would be room for maneuvering..
    why anybody wouldn’t use them are maybe simply because of the vast training anybody who wants to be a more than a fool at horse arching should undergo.

  33. Now, here's a thing, what if the horse archer was trained to fight on foot, like the dragoons of later periods?

  34. The thing is that horse archers never had only bows. They always had swords and spears for close combat.
    Of course horse archers couldn’t defeat equal foot archers but they can nevertheless defeat foot archers of lesser quality and quantity.

  35. Are horse archers unbeatable? No, you can beat them in close combat when it comes to it. Or you can beat them at long range using firearms. Both did the Russians fighting the Tatars in the 14-18th centuries.

  36. 1.Why on earth should horse archers defend a point? It defeats its purpose
    2.The nomads who used them didn't need to hold a point
    3.Horses can stomp heavy troops.
    4.There were usually so many of them that infanty troops in the corrupted Europe were heavily outnumbered.

  37. I feel like I said this before on another LindyBeige video, but with an army of exclusively horse archers and advanced siege Chingis Khan's Mongols carved out the largest empire ever. So when trained that well with a military strategist to match they are a dominant force. The Great Khan (a few of his successors) proved this over and again against various enemies and conditions. *though I do admit they were beaten by certain weather conditions and the dominance will only hold true in that period of time and military advancement.

  38. why all the armies didn't use horse archers? Because, you have to train the horse with archer. If you don't grow up with your horse and bow like Mongols, it will take too much time to train horse and archer 🙂

  39. Inaccurate actually, the current world record range-wise is set by a compound bow meant for horseback use, and yes it might impact accuracy (being on horse) but likewise foot archers are going to have a hard time hitting a moving target

    Also not everyone used horse archers because in most cultures that had them (parthians, scythians, mongols etc) it was usually a cultural thing, they were trained from a young age to do it and in other places it’s simply impractical, however it proved very useful for the nomadic people
    It’s also actually pretty hard to do, so it’s not like everyone could’ve done it if they tried, btw they were the bread and butter of the mongols and those guys built the largest continious empire in history, they were also (shockingly) terrific at siege warfare

  40. In Total war games their weakness is infantry archers and other range units because horse archers are huge targets

  41. So horse archers are better at suprise offensives where you want to cause a lot casualties instead of gaining ground?

  42. How is it that the Mongols took all of Asia and Eastern europe? If their leader did not die, Europe would be speaking Turkic.

  43. Things this dude say are pretty contradictory and ignorant. He bashes horse archer in warfare calling them rubbish and pretty much worthless yet he brings up parthians, huns and mongols. Wut? Lol. And that scenario with the hill, like wth? Lol

  44. The Romans actually had some pretty effective tactics against horse archers, as later on did the Byzantines and Crusaders. The main issue was that it required a high degree of discipline – cavalry, infantry and archers all had to mutually support each other. An awful lot of Mongol victories were achieved against forces that were hastily assembled and which therefore lacked the cohesion necessary to withstand constant harrying.

  45. What if the horse archer shot katanas with his bow? Or better, shot spandaus that would shot katanas while on the flight?

  46. While they aren’t great at everything I think it was pretty clearly shown that horse archers are the troops to have when fighting on the steps, and everyone didn’t use horse archers all the time because they are hard to get. You can give a guy a spear and shield and train him decently in a few months; it’s far more difficult to trains someone to be able to ride a horse guiding it with their legs while shooting a bow with any accuracy.

  47. You’re right because the Mongols didn’t have the biggest contiguous empire to ever exist and the Huns weren’t known as “the scourge of G-d “

  48. I remember reading the Mongols were repelled by Hindus using a long bow dismounted anchored towards the ground. They won the initial missile skirmish then rode them off into a rout.

  49. I am unsure if you are still reading messages from these older videos or not. THIS video, about a fortnight old, COULD be pertinent to this theme:

  50. 3:25 yeah I thought so too until I tried playing as and against horse archers in the total war games.

    It turns out that in order to outshoot the horse archers you need an unhealthily vast amount of foot archers or those foot archers will be whittled down quickly by the horse archers. Yes, dense archers produce a lot of arrows but they get massacred by a storm of arrows from the more thinly spread horse archers.

    And if you do have so many archers that your archers greatly outnumber the horse archers, you are probably lacking in enough infantry and cavalry support to protect those archers. Parthians brought elefants and cataphacts along with the horse archers who in turn could double as normal cavalry, and these could use their mobility to outmanouver the enemy force and charge the enemy archers. Also if there is a massing of archers, the horse archers can probably keep clear of them and bombard the flanks of the enemy.

    I really didn't find a good way to deal with the horse archers in game. That said, the game isn't entirely historically accurate in its game mechanics and is fought between armies of a lesser scale than real ones.

  51. well the mongols also head bows that shot right through metal armor so then a horse archer sudenly trumps heavy infantry! next do a video on female commanders in roman time plz seems to be quite a controversy among rome 2 players 😉

  52. Polish horsemen with anti tank rifles actually faired relatively well in the 2nd world war, they charged in allowing infantry to retreat if I remember correctly

  53. here's my thing the point of a horse archer isnt to defend points its like the germans did in ww2 blitzkrieg lightning war. they are fast mobile troops ment for quick hard and affective attacks any good war general who used them understood that and i'd argue on your point of attack your enemy while they defend a hill that they'd be best suited for it heavy cavalry would be slower up the hil giving defenders more time to shoot a horse archer would make it up the hill much faster and could keep the enemy pinned all the while. in anycase i am kind of agreeing with you here the horse archers have a purpose as do all unites in war they aren't invicible non of them. each has a use in order to gain speed and mobility you have to give up defense and strength thus you must plan a battle in a way which favors that advantage the people who used horse archers were good at this thus making it seem as though they were invicible when infact if the an enemy army had realized this and thought of ways to counter act it which im sure eventually they did they would be easily beatin. on top of this defending a hill doesn't win a war advancing on your enemy does which is when the horse archers were most effective in the face of an enemy advance. no one now a days thinks the horse archers are invicible and virtually unbeatable that is absured its just that the men that used them understood the purpose they served.

    edit: on the point of stationary archers versus horse archers, as my point above states yes in certain situations yes they are infact better to use. imagine your marching an army of soldiers at a position defended by stationary archers the archers fire volley after volley the foot soldiers are slow, no good they get killed of lets try mounted units to be faster yes they both have bows here but while its difficult for a stationary man to dodge an arrow of any kind a man on a horse with other men also on horse all charging at your line firing arrows at you all the while you could imagine how it would be rather scary to be that foot archer. the horse archers were also actually effective against the common european knight at the time they were used because the compound bow used was exceptionally good at piercing there chain mail armor and the knights were slow and couldn't keep up.

    Ps: the man below joseph dittli says it better than I but you get the point

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