The Trabuco: Killer Of Castles

Have you ever wondered why people stopped building castles? At one time, nearly all powerful people in Europe lived in these impressive stone fortifications. Yet, people stopped building them. Why? The answer is simply “The Trabuco”.

The Trabuco was an ancient weapon of war. It was a huge but mobile weapon that worked in a manner similar to a catapult. However, the Trabuco was far more powerful. When a well-placed projectile from one of these things found its mark, it could turn thick castle walls into dust. When it was first introduced, nothing like it had ever been seen before. These monsters could hurl a projectile weighing as much as 140 kilos, shattering hard targets over 800 meters away. Its rate of fire was also significantly better than that of a catapult according to Because of its ability to knock down castles with an ease that had never before been imagined, this weapon single-handedly ended the castle age.


Most of the time, these war machines fired round projectiles that were specifically created for them. In some cases, these projectiles would explode or burn upon impact. Of course, it could also be used to throw large rocks much like its bigger, slower cousin (the catapult). Sometimes, they would take advantage of the weapon’s extremely long range to throw diseased corpses into an enemy castle.

Trabuco was derived from weapons that were first invented in China around 400 BC. These were not like the more advanced versions of the mideival period, which relied on a counterweight to move a gigantic throwing arm. These were simple devices that relied on a friction bolt. These devices were themselves adapted from an even earlier weapon, that being the simple sling.

The first historical account we have of the counterweight version comes from an Islamic scholar named Mardi Al-Tarsusi according to However, we can be fairly sure that the Muslims did not invent this weapon, because Al-Tarsusi refers to it as a weapon invented by “unbelieving demons”. We do, however, have some record of Vikings using a weapon of this kind around 873. As the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries wound on, gunpowder began to replace the older weapons, and cannons began to replace the trabuco. The last known military use of a trabuco took place when conquistador Hernan Cortes used one in his campaign against the aztecs. This was deemed necessary because they were so far away from their gunpowder supplies.

While these weapons are no longer used, it can still be a lot of fun to build a small one for your own learning and use. Even a small one will impress you!

Find more about Trabuco: