Mobile Mongol soldier
Mobile Mongol soldier
Drawing of a mobile Mongol soldier with bow and arrow wearing deel. The right arm is semi-naked because of the hot weather.
Each Mongol soldier typically maintained between 3 or 4 horses.4
Changing horses often allowed them to travel at high speed for days without stopping or wearing out the animals. Their ability to live off the land, and in extreme situations off their animals (mare's milk especially), made their armies far less dependent on the traditional logistical apparatus of western agrarian armies. In some cases, as during invasion of Hungary on early 1241, they covered up to 100 miles per day, which was unheard of by other armies of the time.
The mobility of individual soldiers made it possible to send them on successful scouting missions, gathering intelligence about routes and searching for terrain suited to the preferred combat tactics of the Mongols.
During the invasion of Russia, the Mongols used frozen rivers as highways, and winter, the time of year usually off-limits for any major activity due to the intense cold, became the Mongols' preferred time to strike.
To avoid the deadly hail of missiles, enemies would frequently spread out, or seek cover, breaking up their formations and making them more vulnerable to the lancers' charges. Likewise, when they packed themselves together, into
dense square or phalanx style formations, they would become more vulnerable to the arrows.
Once the enemy was deemed sufficiently weakened, the noyans would give the order. The drums would beat and the signal flags wave, telling the lancers to begin their charge. Often, the devastation of the arrows was enough to rout an enemy, so the lancers were only needed to help pursue and mop up the remnants.
When facing European armies, whose emphasis was in formations of heavy cavalry, the Mongols would avoid direct confrontation, and would instead use their bows to destroy enemy cavalry at long distances. In the few cases where armor actually withstood their arrows, the Mongols simply killed the knights' horses, leaving a heavily armored man on foot, unable to go any distance or move quickly.
At the Battle of Mohi, the Mongols left open a gap in their ranks, luring the Hungarians into retreating through it. This resulted in the Hungarians being strung out over all the countryside and easy pickings for mounted archers who simply galloped along and picked them off, while the lancers skewered them as they fled. At Legnica, the few Teutonic, Templar and Hospitaller knights were able to make a stand dismounted, and inflicted unusually heavy casualties on the Mongols, though they lost the overall battle.