The Trabuco; An Ancient Siege Master

Designed to fling large weights in enemy walls and fortifications, the Trabuco was the perfect siege machine demolishing and collapsing fortress structures by five hits. Though history debates about its origin, the Chinese are the people who discovered the Trabuco. It could hurl 140 kilograms of weights at high speeds over a distance of 800 meters.

Working in the same way as an improved sling, the structure is composed of a long piece of wood levered on a motor. The sling was tied to the extended part of the lever, while a stabilizer would hold firm the shorter side. For it to have more power, people would pull strings attached to the weight. It required about 250 individuals to operate a Trabuco which necessitated developments.

From Asia, the Trabuco entered Europe and was greatly used during crusades. It was the Vikings who used it first before it got to Germany and later France when the Vikings attacked Paris. For over 700 years, the Trabuco was a feared war machine as it terrorized opponents by firing projectiles. The Arabs modified it, giving it more stability and capacity to throw over a ton of weight in the 13 century according to They added weight on the lever increasing the distance of projectiles.


Apart from throwing stones, the Trabuco was one of the first machines to be used for chemical warfare. During the Middle Ages, it would be loaded with sick animals and dead human beings, who would be thrown into sieged enemies. The animals would spread the diseases and war would be won.

The last known warfare involving the Trabuco was by Herman Cortez when he conquered the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan according to It is thought that he lacked gunpowder which by then had been discovered and opted to use the Trabuco. In 1779, British troops constructed a Trabuco when they had limited firearms in defending the Strait of Gibraltar against Spain. The Trabuco was outdated after the discovery of cannons and gunpowder.

In 2013, rebel troops in Syria Civil War were recorded using a counterweight Trabuco in defence against government troops projecting explosives at police. Again, during the anti-protest laws in Ukraine, people used Trabuco to fire Molotov cocktails and bricks. Apart from these two cases, Trabuco is often found built by hobbyists and medieval connoisseurs.

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