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The mounted nomadic warrior was a fearsome sight. At the height of their power, during the 13th and 14th centuries, the nomads built the greatest land empire the world has ever known. Martial training and combat were second nature to the nomads. The ability to shoot and ride was honed as an essential skill from childhood––to hunt animals, as well as to protect one’s herds, property, and family from predators and enemy raids. A man had to be a hunter and a warrior, and sometimes women too. The abilities to plan, coordinate, and execute a hunt were similar to those required for successful warfare. Nomads were raised from childhood to put up with hardship while following game or the herds’ migration, and campaigning was in their blood. Indeed, for the ancient nomads, there was no sharp distinction between hunting and warfare, which rather formed a continuum in their existential experience, both equally necessary for survival.



The Mongol Warrior

The steppe warrior appeared in his most developed form during the Mongol period. However, his armament varied considerably across the empire. For example, the sabres used by the soldiers of the Yuan dynasty were quite different from those of the Golden Horde Khanate. Despite these variations, Mongol warriors shared certain commonalities: they always fought on horseback, usually as light cavalry; their horses were lightly armoured or even unarmoured; and the warriors wore a full set of lamellar armour, composed of stacked layers of thick hide or iron plates. However, the Ilkhanate and Golden Horde Khanate fighters wore mail- and perhaps scale-armour.

The Mongol warrior’s most important weapon was his bow, of the composite, recurve type, the length suitable for use on horseback. He also could carry a lance or mace, though the sabre remained the most common side-arm. Under Mongol influence, the sabre also became the dominant type of sword in China.