The Role Of Horses In Historical Warfare Throughout The Years

The Role Of Horses In Historical Warfare Throughout The Years.

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The Role Of Horses In Historical Warfare Throughout The Years

Horses have been around humans for thousands of years. Throughout history, horses have been used for many different things like entertainment, farming, and even warfare.

Yes, horses gave armies a huge advantage, and sometimes the number of horses that an army had made a huge difference in which party won the battle. After all, horses are big, and fast, and can give us the ability to storm through the battlefield to defeat the enemy.

It’s quite interesting to see the horse’s impact on humanity. They have been used for many different purposes, even horse racing since the dawn of humanity. Nowadays, they’ve transitioned from warfare animals to racehorses that perform at events like the Preakness Stakes for our entertainment.

If you are interested in the fastest times that horses achieved at the Preakness Stakes, check out the link below:

With that said, we cannot ignore the fact that they were used in war. So, what were their roles specifically? Were horses used for getting to the battlefield or in direct battle? Were they used for getting travel and distance advantages?

Bear in mind that their role has changed since ancient times and as our civilization advanced, humans found a new way to use horse’s strength in battle.

Ancient Warfare: The Birth of Cavalry Tactics

Horses have been used in battles since ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians and Hittites. They’ve harnessed the advantage of the horse’s speed and strength for military purposes.

On top of that, they’ve made new additions where the horse’s role gave even greater in-battle advantage with the introduction of chariots. These were mobile platforms where archers and spearmen were sitting and had a job to eliminate as many enemies as quickly as possible. Chariot horses were usually ridden by two men, one maneuvering the horse while the other was ready to do some damage with some kind of weapon.

They also introduced chariot horses where they added some kind of blades on the wheels of the chariot, therefore the horse should only run next to their enemies to make a devastating blow.

Did you know? The Hittites were among the earliest civilizations to master the art of chariot warfare, utilizing it to expand their empire across Anatolia and beyond. This was later seen as a common practice of the Roman Empire.

Medieval Knights

In the medieval era, we started seeing new things that changed the way people used horses in battle. They’ve addressed a simple issue, which was the vulnerability of the horse. In the past, it was quite easy to take down or injure a horse, which is why we’ve seen the emergence of heavily armored knights and horses in order to have some sort of protection.

Knights played a really important part in battles, and these elite warriors had the power to do a lot of damage and protect themselves from the enemies making them a harder mark to take down.

However, all that heavy armor reduced the horse’s speed and endurance. They were getting tired quicker, which is why the options for Knights were limited.

Gunpowder Age

With the introduction of gunpowder, we started to see how the warfare is changing. Despite this new technology of introducing long-range weapons to the battlefield, horses still continued to play an important role.

Cavalry charges gave way to mounted infantry and artillery support, with horses hauling cannons and supplies across vast battlefields. The role of reconnaissance also became paramount, with agile cavalry units scouting enemy positions and relaying vital intelligence.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the strong tactician decided to take 246.000 civilian-owned horses for battle purposes.

Modern Warfare

In the 20th century, we already had vehicles that were either powered by steam or a combustion engine. This is where armies started to reduce the use of horses in battles. After all, these vehicles were long-lasting and could withstand more damage.

However, horses were still used in battles, especially for rough terrains that vehicles could not access. During World War I, cavalry units saw limited action, but they still remained vital for transport and logistical support.

This is a point where the horse’s role in battle suddenly changes. From being in the front row directly in battle, to being a support animal for travel, logistics, carrying stuff, and more. Horses were also used to carry injured soldiers out of the battlefield.

Did you know? The last recorded cavalry charge in history occurred during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920, highlighting the end of an era in military tactics.

Horses in Specialized Roles

Horses are still used in specific military and ceremonial roles in current times. Horses are used by mounted police teams to monitor and manage crowds, demonstrating the horses’ continued use in law enforcement. Moreover, horseback riding competitions such as polo and tent pegging retain their military roots, maintaining a connection to the role horses have played in battle throughout history.

The U.S. Army’s Caisson Platoon, part of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, honors fallen soldiers with horse-drawn caissons in Arlington National Cemetery, a poignant tribute to tradition and sacrifice.

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