Trabuco – The Siege Weapon Before Gun Powder

The Invention Of The Trabuco
The Trabuco(blunderbuss) was inspired by both the sling and the trebuchet. The Chinese had upgraded the traditional sling using a piece of wood as leverage and it advanced from there. The traction bolt that was invented by the Chinese played a big role in the evolution of the Trabuco and early versions involved people pulling the strings to launch the stone.

Trabucos varied in size greatly. Some of the more portable ones only required a few men to operate but it could not handle heavier loads. Some of these portable Trabuco could be handled by one skillful person who operates the ropes and uses their own weight to leverage the traction bolt. Trabucos designed for heavy duty sieges may require dozens of men to operate. The larger ones could take nearly two weeks to deploy during a siege.

It was believed that the more advanced counterbalance blunders were first widely used in the Islamic world but they probably didn’t invent it. According to Saladin had written in manuscripts that these Trabuco were invented by non-believers so it is assumed that it was invented by Christian Europeans.

The newer Trabuco didn’t make it back to China until the 13th century. The Mongols had utilized this new siege weapon to break the defenses of China. It was imported thanks to the Persians and it had devastated multiple major Chinese cities.

Traction Trabuco had taken over as the dominant siege weapon used in Europe until the gunpowder had taken over. Heavy sacks were used to pull down the levers to launch the stones instead of the force of dozens of men.

There have been some massive Trabuco built during the ages that could handle some seriously heavy loads. Charles VII of France had a Trabuco constructed that can launch 800-kilogram stones with great ease. A Trabuco used in Ashyun in the 12th century was capable of chucking 1500 kilogram rocks. Otherwise, smaller 100-kilogram rocks were more typical during warfare.

Stones were not the only thing that these weapons would toss into sieged cities. Heartless warlords would also toss diseased human bodies or cattle into cities so that plagues would spread. This practice on was especially popular when the Bubonic plague was rampant and diseased bodies were plentiful. The last known use was when desperate British forces had constructed Trabuco in 1779 to defend against the attacking Spaniards.

The Retirement of the Trabuco

Once cannons became widespread in Europe towards the end of the 15th century. Trabucos were still used on occasion during desperate times when gunpowder was not available. Hernán Cortés had utilized Trabuco when they had sieged the Aztecs with limited resources. Desperate British forces in Gibraltar had constructed Trabuco to be used against the invading Spanish forces in 1779. This was the last known use of a Trabuco during warfare.

Modern Trabuco
Nowadays, Trabuco are still appreciated by engineers and history buffs alike. Wikihow has even published a guide on how to construct your own Trabuco to test out for fun. Teachers in schools will use Trabuco as fun ways to explain physics in primary schools or colleges on Small children can make model versions with popsicle sticks or even with mousetraps. Adults also have fun building historically accurate Trabuco with advanced construction techniques to launch large stones, watermelons or giant water balloons. Competitions are still held all over the world to see who can build the most efficient Trabuco. You can still find remains of original Trabuco in museums around the world.

Learn more about Trabuco: