Hungarian Horse archers in the 17th century

A Hungarian archer by Albrecht Dürer, 1517, unpublished

I have been made aware of the existence of Hungarian horse-archer units in the 15-Year War (1591/93-1606). It was Szakál’ Dobó József who came across the records about these units in the  „Hadtörténelmi Közlemények” (Budapest, 1894, 7th issue).

A traditional Hungarian composite bow (9th-11th century)

According to the record in the Imperial Military Archive Library of the Habsburgs, such mounted archer units were established on 12 September 1592. More exactly, there were 100 horse archers among the troops of Tetauer Károly. Later, there were 200 of them in Montecuccoli’s army, and 200 in the army of Jörger and Stahremberg. There is a further mention of 250 horse archers paid by the Austrians for 4 months, along with 750 „German riders and archers” who were paid by the king.

Hungarian nobleman, the middle of the 16th century, etching of Jobst Amman

It is thought that traditional Hungarian horse archers have never fully disappeared, their skills were integrated into the martial arts of the Hussars. The existence of this kind of light cavalry did make sense in the 17th century because they were able to answer the challenge of the intruding Crimean Tatars who accompanied the Ottoman army.

Hungarian light cavalryman

We know that Hungarian Hussars were equipped with pistols as early as 1572 but many of them were carrying bows and arrows, especially the Székely cavalrymen. Also, pistols coexisted with the composite bow, often used by the same rider, well into the 17th century in Eastern Europe. However, we know that Baskir horse archers were seen in Paris in 1814…

A Polish winged Hussar with a bow and arrow

Horse archery has been resurrected in Hungary by Kassai Lajos who created the competitive rule system of horse archery in the late 1980s and started to propagate this new sport. His method spread from the 1990s in the rest of Europe, the United States, and Canada.

Kassai Lajos

You can read more about why the Hussars were equally good against the Western and the Eastern cavalry here:

On the left, you can see a Hungarian warrior armed with a bow and arrow (a painting on glass, 17th century)

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