A horse archer, horsed archer, or mounted archer is a cavalryman armed with a bow, able to shoot while riding from horseback. Archery has occasionally been used from the backs of other riding animals. Mounted archery was a defining characteristic of Steppe warfare throughout Central Asia, and throughout the prairies of America after the adoption of the horse, used by peoples including theScythians, Sarmatians, Parthians, Sassanids, Huns, Byzantines, Bulgars, Cumans, Kipchaks, Magyars, Japanese, Mongols, Turks,Russians, Rajputs, Comanches, and others. It was also adopted by other peoples and armies, notably Chinese and Romans who both suffered serious conflict with peoples practicing horse archery. It developed separately among the peoples of the South American pampas and the North American prairies; the Comanches were especially skilled
In battle, light horse archers were typically skirmishers; lightly armed missile troops capable of moving swiftly to avoid close combat or to deliver a rapid blow to the flanks or rear of the foe. In the tactic of the Parthian shot the rider would retreat from the enemy while turning his upper body and shooting backwards. Due to the superior speed of mounted archers, troops under attack from horse archers were unable to respond to the threat if they did not have ranged weapons of their own. Constant harassment would result in casualties, morale drop and disruption of the formation. Any attempts to charge the archers would also slow the entire army down.
An example comes from an attack on Comanche horse archers by Texas Rangers who were saved by their muzzle loading firearms and by a convenient terrain feature. Captain John Bird rode up the Little River with fifty Rangers. They met some twenty Comanches hunting buffalo, and attacked them. The Comanches fled, easily keeping clear of the Rangers, for several miles across the open prairie before Bird noticed that he was now chasing some two hundred Indians. He immediately retreated, only to discover his classic error in fighting mounted archers. The Comanches pursued in turn, screaming and loosing what seemed like clouds of arrows. Bird's command happened across a ravine where they could shoot from cover. They fired carefully to keep the Indians at long range, always making sure they kept a few of their rifles loaded in case of an assault. The horse archers did not charge, but kept the Rangers under siege until seven of them, including Captain Bird, were dead or dying. The Rangers retreated to the east and claimed victory. Comanches set out on large-scale raids, destroying and torturing over a wide area.
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