Trabuco, A Demon Weapon?

The Trabuco was a siege weapon used in the Middle Ages. Its purpose was to fire projectiles that would crush masonry walls or fire over them. It was said to have been invented in China in or around the 9th century. While similar to the catapult, it was less complicated therefore easy, and faster to build. It appeared where penetration of fortifications was necessary.

When attacking a fortification, this weapon could throw large projectiles at high speeds for a distance of 800 meters. It would accomplish its intended tasks.

There were two versions of this weapon; the traction Trabuco and the counterweight Trabuco. The traction Trabuco was operated by men pulling ropes to launch the projectiles. A drawback to this operation was the number of men necessary to operate this machine. The counterweight Trabuco followed in or around the 12th century. It was more complicated, but easier to operate in that instead of needing manpower it used counterweights to function.


Trabuco both served the same purpose and that was destruction of fortifications and the forces behind them. This device was known to be referred to as the “demon weapon”. It has been said on some fronts that some usage of this weapon would be equal to biological warfare as we know it today.. If true this horrendous practice would have certainly earned this weapon the title of “demon weapon”!

The last military usage of the Trabuco was recorded in 1521 according to Hernan Cortes in his attack against Tenochtitlan employed this weapon. The Trabuco was put on a shelf when gunpowder was invented and became a weapon of choice.

Today Trabucos are used as a form of fun. They are sometimes used in pumpkin throwing competitions. More importantly a function they perform today is in the teaching of basic mechanics. So it would seem that the “demon weapon” has come full circle and has become a tool to teach a very important lesson.