Weapons Used by the Bulgars

The success of the Bulgars from the 4th century AD to the 9th century AD was made prevalent by their use of force from horseback.  Most valued by the Bulgars in this application of force were a warrior's cunning, skill, and fierceness in battle.  Furthermore, a warrior would amount to nothing without their weapons.  Whether in the Balkans, the Northern Caucasus, or along the shores of the Volga River, the Bulgar warriors chose weapons that would bring them victory.

Widely accepted amongst the light and heavy cavalry of the Ancient Bulgars were the usage of the spear, the hand ax, the knife, and the lasso.  To a lesser extent the usage of the short sword and javelin were found amongst these horsemen.  For the light cavalry, the main weapon however was the recurve bow and an assortment of arrows to do different jobs.  For the heavy cavalry, a larger spear was the preferred weapon of choice while javelins were used to make up for the lacking of missile weapons.

In regards to the recurve bow and the arrows shot from this, the first wave of any attack would be carried out.  The bow itself was highly prized by the warrior because it could outshoot and outperform others of its time.  As with the Hunnish methodology in making a recurve bow, the Bulgar recurve bow took over five years to make through an exacting curative process.  Hence, like modern ICBM technology of today, the secrets in making these bows was heavily guarded as well as the trading of the bows themselves.  A unique format of resins, wood, sinew, and composite materials such as horn blended together gave this recurve bow a notorious reputation for striking down Byzantines, Franks, and Arabs.  Arrows sent at a given enemy would be made with tips of bone or iron complete with designs for different functions.  These designs could involve a smaller head for better penetration of an opponent wearing metal armor, or a wider head of iron for causing more hemorrhaging upon entry.  They could also be designed to fly further by modifying the shaft length or the feather construction in the tail.  Some arrows might even be made to send communications on the battlefield by making noise through flight.

Both the recurve bow and the arrows would have been a nuisance if it weren't for the mechanisms in controlling these wile galloping on a horse.  Such equipment included the iron stirrup introduced by the coming of the Avars in the mid-6th century AD, the leather bow case kept usually behind the rider on the right side of the horse, and the leather or birch bark quiver for carrying arrows on their left side.  Also a strap of leather would keep the warrior's spear directly on their back when working with the recurve bow.  All of these gave the Bulgar greater versatility in shooting targets in a number of otherwise awkward angles while mounted.

For the heavy cavalry, a larger, longer spear was incorporated into weapon design for the purpose of breaking enemy formations what much easier.  More weight and support behind the spear meant more impact especially if one considers the heavier armor the rider would wear.  If the enemy was not maimed or killed by the second wave consisting of a charge of thrown javelins and the impalement with the handheld spears, the lasso would be considered.

The Hunno-Bulgar warriors would use the lasso where other direct weapons had failed.  Made for the purpose of entangling, the lasso would be thrown over a given victim, and then they would be dragged impacting with stones, trees, and other horses hooves.  If the enemy were not thrown off their balance, the Bulgar would then proceed to come at them with hand axes, swords, or knives (with the knife being the last offense besides fists, kicks and wrestling). As Ammianus Marcellinus, the famous Roman historian reported of the Huns that came before the Bulgars (Hunno-Bulgars), "They fight from a distance with missiles having sharp bone instead of their usual points, joined to the shafts with wonderful skill, then they gallop over the intervening spaces and fight hand to hand with swords, reckless of the own lives; and while the enemy are guarding against wounds from saber-thrusts, they throw strips of cloth plaited into nooses over their opponents and entangle them."