Why would the Victorian military use mounted infantry instead of cavalry?

Was it due to the lower training requirements for man and horse?

  • 5
    Mounted infantry is a good idea. Infantry that can travel long distances and arrive fresh for combat is a good thing. Mobility needs no additional justification.
    – MCW
    Aug 17, 2016 at 11:47

1 Answer 1


In the 19th century, the development of rifles that were longer ranged and faster to load than before gave the advantage to "standard" infantry over cavalry, that is soldiers who fought on horseback, rather than foot. That's because even with a stirrup, it is much harder for a cavalryman to manage a rifle and a horse than a sword or lance and a horse (as in earlier times).

One answer to this problem was mounted infantry, that is soldiers who would use horses for "transportation," but once arrived on the battlefield, would dismount and fight as "infantry." Units of this sort had three quarters of their normal strength because every fourth man would hold the horses of three others. But sometimes, arriving first at a critical point (bridge, pass, etc.) in three fourths strength was more important than arriving later at "full" strength.

  • 1
    If by "mounted infantry" one means pulled by a rail car. In World War 2 this became infantry that simply road on the top of tanks and infantry support vehicles. Nothing beats rail for moving men and material for War though. You still need a large staging area for said infantry and their vehicles though. That's why Russia is always fought over...the Area is so massive you can in theory hide a million man Army. Same being true for North Africa and Syria as well. Aug 17, 2016 at 13:20
  • 1
    +1 this one. By WWI you find accounts of cavalry that found themselves to be more effective if they fought dismounted. Those that tried to fight mounted found themselves vulnerable because they were large targets on the field, and also unpredictable because horses would often go wild and bolt when exposed to a modern battlefield in all of its fury.
    – Smith
    Aug 17, 2016 at 14:46
  • I have read, in fiction, about some mounted infantry pre-firearms. Does this sound reasonable?
    – bnieland
    Aug 17, 2016 at 16:30
  • @Smith - that, and horses wouldn't make it across the boggy mess of no-man's land
    – user13123
    Aug 17, 2016 at 23:40
  • It's also worth mentioning that mounted infantry could still perform cavalry charges. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Beersheba_(1917)
    – Anaryl
    Aug 18, 2016 at 11:52

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