1. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Senior Member

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    Horses in medieval fantasy

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Accelerator231, Aug 24, 2019.

    So here are some ways that horses are depicted wrongly:

    1. They can't charge continuously, nonstop. They'll die if they did that.
    2. They're intelligent animals. Which means that they usually shie away from a spear wall if its steady and strong
    3. They are very expensive, and often used in groups. Which means that its rare for mounted knights to only bring one horse.
     
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  2. AnimalAsLeader

    AnimalAsLeader Active Member

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    1. What do you mean by continuously?
    2. Wrong. Horses were trained for war to surpress their instincts. In later ages they were also trained to get accustomed to the sound of guns.
    3. Correct. Actually I'd like to add as an example figure, horses of the finest races could cost upwards of 60kg of silver in late medieval europe.
     
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  3. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Senior Member

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    1. Horses get tired. That time when you see a hero driving a horse continuously through a wasteland or grassland? That horse is going to die.
    2. Isn't one of the reasons why a like square could block calvary charges was because the horses would see a giant mass of pointy steel, and stop their charge?
     
  4. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

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    No, it is not. Obviously, that would work against light cavalry which does not have chargers. But when Arabs introduced heavy cavalry, Byzantines adapted by introducing 1) deeper infantry ranks and 2) heavy, short spears (menavloi) which would not break when faced with cataphract armour. Which obviously means that normal spears were not, in fact, enough to stop a cavalry charge - in other words, war horses did not shy away merely because infantry did not run. What would happen is that cavalry would charge, penetrate maybe first few ranks of infantry, and then lose momentum and stop - solid body of infantry is still a solid body of infantry. At that point, cavalry has only two options: retreat, or be slaughtered: infantry is much more densely packed than cavalry (horses are big), meaning that each cavalryman would be facing several infantryman. Also, horses are big, which makes them big targets. As a result, cavalry would require several successive charges to penetrate disciplined infantry, and even then better option was to wait until infantry got disorganized (by other infantry, missile fire etc.) and then charge.

    IIRC, there are also a few cases of cavalry charges punching through infantry squares in 18th and early 19th centuries.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2019
  5. AnimalAsLeader

    AnimalAsLeader Active Member

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    Sure, a horse can't run a whole day, that's why for postal services people, for example the Teutons had stables every 20-30km with fresh horses. However, for a battlefield situation it's okay. In some battles for example it was reported that cavalry units charged more than 15 times.

    Just a nitpick, the cataphracts were parthian, not arabic, and even the cataphracts did not charget head on into roman ranks (They did face off againt each other numerous times, Crassus actually died in battle against them). Even in early medieval periods, cavalry did not charge into shield walls, as we know from the battle of Hastings. Cavalry charges are something that you would see the Huns or Mongols do (albeit against retreating enemies), and then later it became common in the era of full plate armor. If you look at medieval polearms, they rarely exceeded 2 meters in length, the lance of a knight had more reach, and full plate plus the fear factor was enough for knights to completely decimate any infantry. It was basically if you deployed modern infantry on an open field against tanks. This only changed with the formation of Tercio - trained soldiers with long pikes, who formed large squares -, but even in those situations, it was actually te rider who stopped the horse from charging into pikes, not the horse itself. A notable exception are the winged hussars, who used lances of up to 6 meters to gain the reach advantaage over infantry pikemen. They would charge frontally, crush the ranks of the infantry, ad if needed, retreat aand charge again. However, and this is true for most cavalry charges in history, one was usually enough to seal the deal.

    Also, yes there were charges in later stages too, but first of all, the use of pikemen wasn't as common any more, and the cavalry had changed, too. They would usually flank, and use speed to overwhelm the line infantry more than brutal strength. One exception would be the battle of Samosierra during the Napoleonic wars, but that's a charge against artillery.
     
  6. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

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    Cataphracts were a type of cavalry used by Scythians, Romans, Persians (Parthians, Sassanids) and, yes, Arabs. IIRC, Arab trading cities such as Palmyra had utilized cataphracts as early as second or third century. Ghassanids also utilized cataphracts:
    https://books.google.hr/books?id=js30HODt2aYC&pg=PA170&lpg=PA170&dq=Arab+cataphract&source=bl&ots=ZDS-U58BPp&sig=ACfU3U0qfgqUtHqmDa2FldMGZQx4vvDItg&hl=hr&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwixgei4i7LkAhVGUhUIHZ8hD4gQ6AEwFXoECAYQAQ#v=onepage&q=Arab%20cataphract&f=false

    Cavalry could and did charge into solid infantry units (be it a shield wall or a pike formation). Other question is how often such a charge was done, how effective it was, and when exactly it started happening. Ancient cataphracts which you mention could not charge as they lacked stirrups - they would advance on a trot and then bash at infantry with maces. But later on, cavalry charges became more common, as shown by Romans (Byzantines) a) increasing depth of infantry units (originally 4-6, later 8 or even 12 ranks deep) and b) adopting heavy, short menavlion spear, both of which were developments intended specifically to resist cavalry charge.

    Eric McGreer in Sowing the Dragon's Teeth brings Praecepta Militaria of Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (""Presentation and Composition on Warfare of Emperor Nikephoros"). And some specifically talk about cataphracts charging into a mass of infantry:
    "And then the spears of the enemy infantry in the front lines will be smashed by the kataphraktoi, while their arrows will be ineffective, as will the menavla of their javeliners."

    And if memory serves me right, in Battle of Hastings cavalry did, in fact, charge shield wall. They did not succeed in breaking through, but they did charge it, and it was not a feint either. I am not saying that it was always effective - in fact, cavalry charge against disciplined infantry in close order usually failed, hence the need to create an opportunity - but saying that cavalry will absolutely not charge infantry formations is incorrect.

    But yes, it seems we do agree at least on the fact that horse will not simply turn away regardless of rider's wishes when faced with an infantry formation.
     
  7. AnimalAsLeader

    AnimalAsLeader Active Member

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    I was not aware that the term cataphract was also used for other cavalry than the parthian elite. Also, I thought the partians knew stirrups ... but may I only assumed it because the Sarmatians did use it at that time already...

    The Normal cavalry did charge the Saxon shieldwall , but it was only as a reaction to William spotting a hole in the formation. AFAIK the Saxons managed to close it in time though. Had they not opened their formation in the first place, I am sure William would have never charged, because the Saxon shieldwall was located on a hill.

    Another cavalry charge that I know of is the Arab charge at the battle of Poitiers, also against a shieldwall on a hill. But this battle, as we know, was lost by the Arabs.

    Oh, and if you count elephants as cavalry, those did surely charge :D
     
  8. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    My WIP is about a group of men that were part of the hussars and they used a similar charge.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Necronox

    Necronox Contributor Contributor

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    I'm just going to say that cavalry is an awefully broad term. Saying "Cavarly did not charge infantry" is like saying "apples are not green". Some apples certainly are green, some arn't.

    Point is, there is almost a cavalry example for almost everything sensible.
     
  10. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    also the point of fantasy is that its not happening in the real world real settings etc so you can make these rules up however you wish - maybe horses in your world won't charge a shield wall, may be they will, maybe they'll sprout wings and fly over it, may be they are fully sentient and will decide that the war is wrong and they'd rather play polo... this is why it is fantasy instead of history
     
  11. AnimalAsLeader

    AnimalAsLeader Active Member

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    When I said cavalry did not charge into spears I was referring to "it is not a recommended battle tactic", actually. Sure, it did happen, once in a while and many times it ended very badly for the horsemen. Sometimes it was intentional and was succesful. If you take the winged hussars, they charged pretty much anyone and they were incredibly succesful with it. But in general it is a rule in the same category as "spears are a better battlefield weapon than swords". Because, in general they are, for various reasons, but that still didnt prevent the romans from beating the phalanx.
     
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  12. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

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    This was more about the argument that cavalry will not charge infantry, period, and less about how effective these are. But as @AnimalAsLeader clarified, even though the horses would (and did) do it, it still does not mean it is smart thing to do.
     
  13. 31152104

    31152104 Member

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    Some authors get horses right in fantasy. Many cavalry charges depicted as charge then retreat, or bloody sluaghter as infantry block swarm over cav like piranhas. Flanking thus wise, and a charge coupled with supporting infantry breaks open the nest for the anteater.

    The battle of Agincourt an interesting one regarding this theme.


    I am thinking of the steppe nomads. Different breed of horse, oh so different.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferghana_horse

    The heavenly horses, equine treasure that luanched a thousand warriors.
    Probably the genetic stock that existed through Atilla to the Golden Horde, some say.

    The topic of war elephants would perhaps produce less argument, seeing as their flaws are patently documented, yet I am saddened that war rhinos have never been utilized in warfare. A domestication of such beasts as mounts... would have to chain a man to his saddle.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
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  14. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I take it you haven't seen Black Panther :D
     
  15. 31152104

    31152104 Member

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    Hehe, the only recent movie I have seen in,,, years? Would be Tarantino's latest flick. Did see youtube analysis of the Marvel inclusion of panther in their pantheon, and now you stimulate my memory of rhinos in battle in mentioned film. Had this idea a few years back, Colliseum like arena set in scifi verse with Rhino-mounted warriors.
     
  16. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Rhinos (particularly white rhinos) are stupid, stubborn and short sighted.... probably not ideal battlefield mounts... if i was picking from the big game after elephants my next choice would be buffalo.... although i quite like the idea of a war giraffe, wearing armour and using its head as a mace
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  17. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    If North American animals are game, then I'd go with Bighorn Sheep. They're not as large as horses (around 300lb instead of 2000) , so riders would have to be smaller and less armoured, but imagine a charge of those battering into enemy enemy forces.
     
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  18. 31152104

    31152104 Member

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    A herd of Cape Bufallo truly is a good asset (Need a legion of veteran cowboys there though, unless modern tech in play and they are herded by vehichular means, or magical in fantasy terms) (not sure if a cohort of mounted knights will be able to herd buffalo... defensive circles, cavalry may have to resort to violence, result:?)

    [Shaman drinks tea. Shaman hears enemy. Shaman sends buffaloes. Shaman drinks tea.]


    Agree on physical limitations of rhino, yet in a fantasy setting altered biology... or dna splicing in scifi... bionic rhinos... katanas on battle helm over horns.

    The hippo is truly brutal, yet I believe psychologically unsuited for terrestial herding. They mostly wander the land nocturnally, and while very aggresive in a naturalistic situation I am unsure whether fight, or flight will grip their minds in sapient war. Effect may be akin to elephant.

    That said, if you cage a few bulls and release them into enemy ranks, results may be positive... logistics are only problem.

    War giraffes, I have imagined them used by a small race, gnomish, with an archer platform on the back... the gait of the giraffe would make for a rough ride though. Mace giraffe plausible application, as they already club one another... shodding their hooves good.

    Hmmm maybe going to create a persistent thread at some point, the application of extinct species has great merit. Griffonflies, great birds(final fantasy?) and the like. Dinosuars have such application across mediums of expression already... nothing like a Nazi riding a Triceratops.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  19. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    You should check out The Dinosaur Knights by Victor Milan.
     
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  20. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    I believe this question is answered with the siege of Vienna.

    Here is part of the description from Wiki.
    18,000 horsemen charged down the hills, the largest cavalry charge in history.[34][35] Sobieski led the charge[18]:661 at the head of 3,000 Polish heavy lancers, the famed "Winged Hussars". The Muslim Lipka Tatars who fought on the Polish side wore a sprig of straw in their helmets to distinguish them from the Tatars fighting on the Ottoman side.[36] The charge easily broke the lines of the Ottomans,

    The soldiers had pikes to stop the cavalry, but the hussars had longer lances that impaled the pike holder before he could do any damage. Sometimes leaving several men impaled on the end of their lance.
     
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  21. Dan McLeod

    Dan McLeod Member

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    I remember Eddings' Tamuli being very caught up on distances and horse wellbeing, which didn't do a lot for the narrative.
    I guess we all expect different levels of realism in our fiction.
     
  22. Veloci-Rapture

    Veloci-Rapture Member

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    Yes, they are intelligent. However, it's actually very easy to train horses to run into a spear line; they have awful depth perception. Normally they shy from approaching objects early as a way to account for that, but horses that have been trained to trust their riders' directions have literally been ridden off cliffs.

    It's harder to train them to get used to the noise of the battlefield than it is to get them to approach an object (or group of objects) at speed.
     
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  23. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    This is a myth. Horses can and were trained to charge pike formations and infantry squares. By the time the infantry square was in use during the Napoleonic wars, the use of cavalry charges was limited and horses were unarmoured, but an infantry square was broken on at least one occasion.

    As for charges during the medieval period, horses were sometimes armoured in front, but nonetheless, they would charge a pike or spear formation if compelled to. The charge worked because it was a game of chicken between the soldiers and the knight - who would lose their nerve first. And more often than not in the medieval period, when most of the soldiers were levees rather than professionally drilled and trained men, it was the infantry that would lose their nerve first and lose cohesion.
     
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  24. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd say, of all the animals you could ride (if you had to) that would do the most damage in a group charge, it would have to be horned cattle. Think of an enemy attempting to stand firm when a stampede of cattle was coming at them! Mind you, the riders would have to be very skilled, because cattle stampede when they're frightened, and will not be easy to control.

    I wonder if cattle have ever been used as war mounts. I can't think of any instance, but I do wonder.
     
  25. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    Not en masse, but individuals have. In the siege of Bang Rajan in Ayutthaya (Thailand), a man named Nai Thongmen rode a water buffalo into battle.
     
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