Born out of the tumultuous battles of the Middle Ages, the Trabuco is a powerful weapon used to crush walls, or bypass them completely, flinging all manner of objects to the other side. The cousin of the catapult, but with a simpler mechanism, the counterweighted devices were used not just for destruction, but were actually one of the first instances of biological warfare. It has been reported that, during the Bubonic Plague, Trabuco were employed to hurl disease-riddled corpses into population areas in the hopes of spreading death and disease.
A Trabuco operates from the forces of kinetic energy, unleashed by a counterweight, attached to sling-type mechanics. Originally, the devices were designed to be small and moveable, with a throwing capacity of a few hundred pounds. Over time, however, they grew in strength, eventually capable of hurtling 3000 pounds of rock and debris hundreds of feet. The structure of a traditional Trabuco consists of a long arm mounted on a sturdy base, or wheeled cart. A hefty counterweight is used to pull back the arm, and once released, harnesses that energy to launch its contents across great distances. Read This Article for more information.
Those first, small Trabuco are thought to have originated in China sometime around 400 B.C., but it was their arrival in Europe, around 1000 A.D., spreading first to the Byzantine and Persian Empires and then into Scandinavia, that saw their widespread deployment. During the tumultuous and bloody period of siege-mentality engendered by the Crusades, the Trabuco rose to its greatest prominence.
The Trabuco would remain as a primary weapon of war for centuries. Only with the advent of gunpowder was the Trabuco finally supplanted by more rapid and powerful cannons, sometime in the 15th and 16th centuries. Hernando Cortez, in his conquest of Tenochtitlan in 1521, ordered the last known military deployment of a Trabuco when his men ran out of gunpowder.
Today the once-lethal weapons are used for less nefarious purposes, providing a great resource for teaching mechanics, or for contests of a fun, competitive nature.
Check out a real Trabuco on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCS7mm_kj7I