The Age Of Trabucos

The Trabuco, also known as Trebuchet in French, is a military weapon that was used in the Middle Ages for siege operations that involved crushing masonry walls or, like the catapult, firing projectiles over them. It is believed that the Trabuco was invented in China around 400AD then made to the European shores in 600AD.

Compared to the mangonels, catapults, and ballistae of the medieval ages, the Trabuco was not a complicated machine according to It was actually popular because manufacturing it was relatively simple and maintenance was easy. It was also very prominent because of its ability to launch heavy projectiles at a greater distance that the arms that were in existence at the time.


The tensile Trabuco was one of the first known Trabuco variations. The short end of the beam was operated by a group of people pulling at it. The largest Trabuco that has been documented was operated by 250 people catapulting a 140-pound stone over 80 meters. This was described in detail by Wu Jing Yao de Zong. The tensile Trabuco was capable of giving up to four shots per minute which was an impressive feat at the time. However, controlling a large team of people could get complicated. This meant that the shots did not come out with the same force. Because of this complication, this type of Trabuco didn’t make it past the eleventh century.

The Trabuco was popular until the outbreak of gunpowder, and its relevance slowly fizzled out until today when it is used as a fun, educational machine especially when explaining the basic principles of mechanics. It is also found in museums to appreciate the rich history that it carries .

The machine works by transforming gravitational potential energy into kinetic energy. Not all potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy though. Some of it is lost in the conversion to heat and sound. The counterweight’s size is directly proportional to the velocity of the projectile on Teachers use the Trabuco to explain physical principles because calculations of potential gravitational energy, potential difference, and potential kinetic energy are linked directly to this weapon’s operation.

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