Mongols of Khan's time are generally considered to be a cavalry army, which makes sense logistically, given the width and speed of their military maneuvers.

But is there historical evidence of Khan's Mongol armies ever using infantry in any significant degree (e.g. >5% of a given fighting force)?

I'm mostly interested in timlines around Gengis (1206-1227) but pretty much anything till the time of Kublai Khan (1294) is fair game.

Please note that I'm using a narrow definition of infantry: soldiers trained and equipped to fight primarily on foot (they may have horses for movement but always/primarily fight dismounted, using infantry tactics).

I'm only including front line soldiers - e.g. auxiliary engineering, logistics, and whatever equivalent of military police/garrison troops inside the empire the Mongols had do not count, even if they were not cavalry.

Non-horsed-archers are probably in-scope, but again, only if they were explicitly meant to fight on foot as opposed to simply regular cavalry archers that were dismounted for accuracy at a specific part of the battle. Depends on details.

Inspired by this Q&A.

  • 1
    Nice. We already know about human shields, those are probably out of scope as well.
    – Nathan
    Dec 30, 2012 at 14:27
  • @NathanCooper - I don't think they can be classified as part of the army, being locals/prisoners?
    – DVK
    Dec 30, 2012 at 19:42

3 Answers 3


There are two things that the Mongols had to their advantage when they waged war, significant numbers and superior training and discipline. These two factors almost always ensured that they would have the upper hand in any engagement.

I found one source that suggested that a typical military unit for the Mongols would consist of three major units. One unit would consist of 10,000 infantry and the other two would consist of 10,000 cavalry. Each of these units was made up of a number of smaller units, each with its own role.

One unit of cavalry would attack at many different points along the enemy's lines, and then quickly retreat and regroup, preventing the enemy from being able to follow or sometimes even find them. The other unit of cavalry would ride around the enemy, encircling them on all sides so that they could not escape.

The infantry consisted of a combination of foot soldiers and archers. The archers would help harrass the enemy by continuously pelting them with arrows. Then once the enemy started to wear down, the foot soldiers would charge in to finish them off in close combat.

(This same site has a pretty impressive list of sources on their bibliography page.)

  • 1
    Wow if that is true (and the bib pages points far in that direction) it would change almost everything I know about that period! +1
    – Russell
    Jan 12, 2013 at 1:18
  • "always ensured that they would have the upper hand in any engagement." less mongol fan boy-ism.
    – pugsville
    Apr 7, 2014 at 6:54

I've found some evidence during the Mongol invasion of Japan (it is wikipedia, but it's cited to a reasonable, but not fantastic degree):

"in 1274, the Yuan fleet set out, with an estimated 15,000 Mongol and Chinese soldiers and 8,000 Korean soldiers, in 300 large vessels and 400-500 smaller craft, although figures vary considerably depending on the source"

And in the following battle of Bun'ei (battle before the Kamikaze typhoon business) we find that the mongols used phalanx infantry tactics against the Japanese.

This book chronicles these events.

  • 6
    Interestingly, there is a differentiation here between Mongol and Chinese. Could it be that the Mongols were the cavalry and the Chinese the infantry? Dec 30, 2012 at 15:08
  • Yes, it seems the infantry would have been non-mongol. Perhaps someone knows more.
    – Nathan
    Dec 30, 2012 at 20:12

0%. Mongols often had allied infantry (mostly Chinese), mongols occasionally fought dismounted. But mongol troops were always primarily cavalry.

  • 7
    Sources? .. ....
    – DVK
    Apr 7, 2014 at 11:43
  • 1
    This seems suspiciously simple. It seems more likely to me that the advantages of mixed-arms would not have evaded the Mongols, given their success, and that they had a dragoon force that travelled mounted but dismounted to fight. Likely these were composed of younger warriors leavened with veterans. Dec 31, 2014 at 21:53
  • 1
    Mixed arms aren't so advantageous when you leave them far behind in the dust behind your cavalry.
    – Oldcat
    Jan 6, 2015 at 0:23

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