Galloping horses

Friday, September 6, 2013

Many historians were unaware of the lifestyle of the steppe horsemen and couldn't believe that Scythian and Hun horsemen could ride 200 kilometers in one day.

Early reports

The Historical Chronicle written by Chinese historian Chi Chi, in the first century B.C., tells the story of a Hun heir who escaped from a Saka prison; he carried out the stunt with a fast horse. Other reports, tell stories about Hun warriors that could advance 1000 "lit" distance (one "li" ca. 400 meters) a day.

Steppe horsemen to date call long distances traversed horses, fast horses, and it is not uncommon for them to ride 100-150 kilometers a day.

Several Western historians didn't believe in these stories because they could not imagine that a horse and a rider at the time of antiquity or the early Middle Ages could complete such distances. In those times, in Western Europe fifty kilometers daily distance was the norm.

Soldiers and horses

Mongolian researchers believe that the Eastern Hun army was able to advance up to 200 kilometers in a day. They used specially bred horses allegedly crossed with wild donkeys. To ride such distance was not a problem to the steppe peoples because, they traveled with seven or eight horses, often switching horses to keep them in good shape.

European sources were also aware of this form of transportation. Ammianus Marcellinus, a Roman author and soldier observed similar techniques used by Sarmatians. He writes "They are galloping on well-trained fiery horses, they take one or two horses with them frequently switching horses to keep them in good health."

Turk and Mongol ethnic tribes in Central Asia, Mongolia, and northern China still hold horse races where participants have to ride 30-40 kilometers. Even today, experienced Central Asian shepherds can do up to 130 kilometers on horseback a day, which is still the cheapest and easiest form of transportation in those regions.

Scythian and Hun warriors lived their daily lives on their horses -- they were born on the horse and died on the horse. The Chinese chronicle mentioned above says that Hun children were introduced into basic military training at a very early age, as a result, the majority of the Hun population became expert warriors ready to fight at any time.

Chinese sources indicate that the warrior lifestyle was part of the Hun culture. We know that ancient Hungarian kings followed this form of steppe warfare as well. King Attila always negotiated with foreign diplomats while sitting on a horse. According to the Illustrated Chronicle, Attila was not willing to give up this habit even for the sake of the Pope, he negotiated with the Pope while he was sitting on a white horse.

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