Catapults were mostly used to launch different types of artillery such as boulders, fireballs, etc., into castle walls or other fortresses to gain access. Today, when you think of a weaponized catapult, most people envision the ones the Europeans used around in the early 1200’s, the ones that had gear and pulley systems. The Trabuco, however, was one of the first traction catapults operated by humans. It is believed to have been designed by the Chinese and dates back to around 300 B.C.
The original Trabuco consisted of a long arm with a short arm a few feet below. The short arm attached cross-wise and had attached to it a detachable counter balance – a bag or box filled with material such as sand or dirt. A sling loaded with projectiles (boulders, rocks, fire balls) was attached to the end of the long arm. When the sling is pulled to the ground it raises the counter weight. Once the counterweight is released to the ground, the sling (filled with it’s projectiles) is shot into the air with great force, the kinetic energy from the counterweight falling to the ground. Once the long arm abruptly stops moving, its projectiles are thrust forward raining down on the enemy.
Trabuco, when used in war were massive in size and took about 12 days to construct. The simplicity of the machine is what made it so appealing that, and the fact it could be built on-site. The soldiers who operated the trebuchet were called “gynours.” Gynours were under constant attack by enemy arrows and artillery in an attempt to stop the machine’s fury and/or burn it to the ground.
The most famous and massive trebuchet ever constructed was called the WarWolf according to spanishdict.com. In 1304 King Edward ordered the massive weapon’s construction in an attempt to overtake Scotland’s Sterling Castle. Once completed the WarWolf stood between 300 and 400 feet tall and could hurl stones or other artillery at speeds of over 100 miles per hour. It is said that there was no castle wall the WarWolf couldn’t take down. When construction first began, Scotland refused to surrender, however when they realized the massive size of the trebuchet they tried to surrender. In response, however, King Edward filled the sling with the Scottish soldiers to test his powerful machine written on wordreference.com. Needless to say King Edward was successful in gaining access to the castle.
These machines were in use for hundreds of years but eventually became extinct with the invention of gun powder and cannons.