Trabuco’s: A Wicked Weapon Of Warfare From The Middle Ages

The idea of ancient wars is often romanticized by books and movies. Fair maidens wish there warriors well, and fierce warriors win battles that seem impossible. Swords fly, ships sail, and other ancient weapons of warfare are utilized. One such weapon you may have seen in the movies when warriors were laying siege to a castle or other large building is called a Trabuco.

A Trabuco was a kind of a fancy catapult. It was a weapon used in the Middle Ages. The goal of using a Trabuco was to crush walls or to fire deadly projectiles over walls, much like a catapult. A Trabuco is also called a blunderbuss according to The Trabuco was able to throw about 140 kilograms of any kind of projectile approximately 800 meters. They had excellent accuracy. Trabuco’s were originally invented in 400 B.C. by the Chinese and made their way to European countries around 600 A.D. Trabuco’s were such excellent weapons that their use was not stopped until gunpowder began to be used. Trabuco’s also were used to commit biological warfare, Middle Ages style. Bodies that were infected with a disease were used as projectiles in an effort to sicken the opponents.


Trabuco’s work by transforming gravitational potential energy and turning it into kinetic energy. The idea behind the Trabuco is based upon the slingshot according to The counterweight that is used has a direct effect on how fast the projectile goes. Teachers often use the concept of the Trabuco to teach about potential difference between the kinetic energy produced from the gravitational potential energy since some of the energy dissipates due to friction. This basic physics concept allowed the people of the Middle Ages to create a weapon that was highly accurate as well as highly effective.

Find more about Trabuco:

Trabuco – Ancient War Machine

The Middle Ages was a time of extreme violence. Man had to be prepared to protect himself from his enemies as well as raid and fight in territories belonging to his enemies. Once such weapon was the Trabuco, aka Balanced Trabuco. The Trabuco engine had a swinging arm that could catapult large boulders into enemy territory. Its intent was twofold: to launch stones over walls and damage enemy masonry surrounding their properties to allow warriors entry.

According to considered a compound machine, the Trabuco consisted of a large arm mounted on a base. It required mechanical action for the lever to swing and throw its projectile. Materials available to use at that point in history included wood, rope, leather, metal and reinforced steel. Manpower was required to swing the arm. It was a development of the sling or catapult made large enough to hold boulders, if necessary. Trabucos measured 30 meters in length, or approximately 98 feet. They were not small or lightweight. Warriors of that time had to be strong just to load and use them.

A Trabuco was very powerful. It could throw up to 140 kilograms (308 pounds) at an extremely high speed up to 800 meters (874 yards) or more. Recorded history tells us that the Trabuco was unmatched by any other ancient weapon. It was the first weapon used for biological warfare by the Chinese to launch diseased dead bodies into enemy territories in the 4th century. Brazilians used it in the 6th century. Towards the end of the 12th century, it was being used by both the Muslims and Christians. Later it was redesigned and renamed the Balancing Trabuco.

History has recorded the use of the Trabuco in eastern Europe by the 800s and further, to England, by the 1200s. It was used as a weapon of mass destruction in many European wars. With the invention of gunpowder in the 14th century, cannons took the place of the Trabuco. However, there is evidence it was still being used in battle during the 15th century on