Fearsome Facts About Leader Genghis Khan’s Mongol Army

During his reign, Genghis Khan ran one of the most feared empires. He wouldn’t have been able to conquer huge regions of central Asia and China, the Middle East, and Europe without his warriors. The men who did his bidding became master archers and kept vast secrets for their leader.

Keep reading because there are some interesting facts and details about Genghis Khan’s warriors.

Able-Bodied Men Had To Be Ready To Serve

Genghis Khan’s military campaigns wouldn’t have been successful without the sheer number of men he had at his disposal. These men weren’t volunteers, though. Historians believe able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 (some say 15) were called upon to serve in the Mongol army.

Mongolia - Resurrecting Genghis Khan
Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images
Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

Dr. Timothy May, the author of The Mongol Art of War, estimates one in seven Mongol men were warriors.

Hit-And-Run Practice Was Mandatory

As it turns out, Genghis Kahn’s troops were so victorious because of mandatory practice. Their favorite strategy was a hit and run. This had horseback riders with their bows and arrows barreling towards their enemy, taking them down.

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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

They would then retreat before the opponent had time to regroup. They would then turn around and charge them, staying out of the line of their weapons.

They Had To Take Out Other Leaders

Early in his campaign, Genghis Kahn realized it was a poor decision to allow other leaders to live. This had him making sure his soldiers took out each and every leader, even after their armies were destroyed.

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Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

It was to ensure the enemy leader did not gain a new following.

Learning To Ride A Horse Was Mandatory

In Mongol culture, all children learn how to ride a horse. This came in handy when men were called to serve under Genghis Khan, as all warriors needed to know how to ride a horse over long distances.

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Michel SETBOUN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Michel SETBOUN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Not only that, but they had to be able to balance on their horse, a skill made easier thanks to metal stirrups, and be able to shoot a bow and arrow.

Engineers And Specialists Were A Necessity

Genghis Khan and his troops found themselves in a different type of warfare when attempting to gain control of a fortress.

Russian forces fighting the Golden Horde
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Wanting to get inside castle walls, Khan made sure his troops were well supplied with engineers and specialists who could construct massive catapults, gunpowder, and other forms of artillery.

They Washed With Their Mouths

Fighting battles is a dirty business, but Genghis Khan made sure that his warriors followed one rule: never allow water to touch one’s face and fall back into the source.

Gengis Khan se proclame empereur.
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

With the punishment of death looming over their heads if they broke the rule, warriors would put water in their mouths, walk away from the source, and then let the water trickle onto their hands, allowing them to wash their hair and bodies.

Warriors Knew To Keep Their Food Down

Unfortunately, choking on food is something that occasionally happens. In the Mongol army, though, the warriors knew to keep their food down or suffer the consequences. They believed choking was a form of demonic possession.

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Michel SETBOUN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Michel SETBOUN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Spitting out the food was thought to mean a soldier was spreading evil amongst his fellow warriors.

They Mastered Archery From An Early Age

A skill no warrior was without was archery. Genghis Khan’s warriors were to master the skill, even going as far as competing in local contests as children. Their superior marksmanship was one of the many reasons Khan successfully built his empire and conquered lands.

Tournage du film ?Gengis Khan à la conquête du monde?
Michel SETBOUN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Michel SETBOUN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Khan made sure they had the best weapons available, too — bows and arrows with wooden cores.

They Were Trained In The Art Of Deceitful Retreat

Genghis Kahn’s troops conquered a lot of land by being expert strategists, and that didn’t mean always going on the offensive. The warriors were trained in the art of retreat, allowing their opposition to press for an attack while they waited.

Seated statue of Chingis Khan at the Parliament Building in Ulan Bator, 2005.
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

It was a deceitful retreat, as Khan’s warriors advanced on the attacking soldiers when they thought they were winning the battle. The tactic resulted in many of their victories.

All Of The Spoils Were Split Amongst The Soldiers

After Genghis Kahn’s men defeated an enemy, they took everything they could find. Silver, gold, and anything of value was then distributed amongst the warriors, a strange payout for helping defeat Kahn’s enemies.

Processing ABC Bullion Gold and Silver at an ABC Refinery Smelter
David Gray/Bloomberg via Getty Images
David Gray/Bloomberg via Getty Images

To make sure the spoils were split equally, a special committee called the jarqu handed everything out.

Each Warrior Had Numerous Horses

For the Mongol troops, horses were essential. Not only was it a way to get around faster, but it also symbolized wealth, a status Genghis Khan held over the people he conquered.

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Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Each warrior rode with at least four or five extra horses, ensuring they would always have a fresh and rested steed if their leader called upon them.

Flanking Was Their Go-To Fighting Style

The Mongol forces were so successful in battle due to their flanking. It was a tactic Genghis Kahn had his forces practicing on numerous occasions. They would surround the opposing army, with troops stationed in both the front and back.

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Yao Lin/VCG via Getty Images
Yao Lin/VCG via Getty Images

Once the front troops retreated, the others would move in on all sides, greatly outnumbering the opposition.

Obedience Was Not An Option

Obedience was not an option when it came to the warriors and their superiors. If a soldier stepped out of line, they faced dire consequences, such as lashings and, in extreme cases, execution.

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Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

The Italian diplomat Friar Giovanni di Plano Carpini said of then warriors, “These men… are more obedient to their masters than any other men in the world.”

Genghis Khan’s Tomb Was To Be Kept Secret

When Genghis Khan passed away in 1227, his warriors were ordered to bury him in an unmarked grave. Rumor has it; the fearsome leader did not want people to know the whereabouts of his final resting place.

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China Photos/Getty Images
China Photos/Getty Images

As the legend goes, his warriors carried his body to a secret location, buried him, and then rode 1,000 horses over the spot so no one could tell it was a burial site.

Boiling Food Had A Spiritual Benefit

Instead of holding their meat over the fire to cook it, the Mongol army opted for a different approach. They would boil their food, believing the cooking method held a spiritual benefit.

Mongolian cooking.
Christophel Fine Art/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Christophel Fine Art/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

After the meat was cooked through, they would pour the boiling water onto their plate and then back into the pot.

All Religions Were Welcomed

While Genghis Khan conquered a big chunk of central Asia, China, the Middle East, and Europe, different religions weren’t an issue amongst the warriors. They were all welcomed. An interesting concept since Khan was set in his ways.

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Khan believed allowing his warriors religious freedom would make it less likely for them to rebel.

Masters Of Weaponry

While the Mongol army was trained how to use a bow and arrow from a young age, it wasn’t the only weapon they knew how to use. Genghis Khan made sure his artillery was well-stoked, and his warriors learned how to use everything in their arsenal.

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Anthony Devlin/PA Images via Getty Images
Anthony Devlin/PA Images via Getty Images

Some of the weapons they had at their disposal were catapults, crossbows, and spears.

It Was All About Knowing The Battleground

To ensure success on the battlefield, Genghis Kahn made sure his warriors were always at the right place at the right time.

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Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

If a battleground was at their disadvantage, he would tell his soldiers to split up into smaller ranks, only to come back together in a surprise attack that overwhelmed their opponent and gave them victory.

There Was A Startling Amount Of Equality

Even with a fearsome ruler like Genghis Kahn, his troops had a startling amount of equality. Kahn made sure that only those who deserved to be promoted were, regardless of status outside of the army.

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barbara howell/Pinterest
barbara howell/Pinterest

On top of that, he gave women rights at a time where the concept was unheard of.

They Weren’t Against Using Bad-Blood Tactics

When it came to defeating his foes, Genghis Khan wasn’t against using particular groups of people in his troops to win a fight. In one case, he used the bad blood amongst Christians and Saracens, sending the former into battle against his opponents.

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Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

This tactic increased already existing hostility, leading them to win in battle.

Drinking From The Same Cup Was Normal

Instead of sipping a drink from their own cup, the Mongol army had a strange tradition. They would all share from the same drinking glass. While this might sound strange, there was a logical reason.

Santo Amaro festivities mark the elevation of Morna as a World Cultural Heritage Site
Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images
Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

The warriors were afraid of being poisoned. They were protected against such a death, at least, amongst the troops by drinking from the same cup.

Some Men Were Undercover Agents

The Mongol army never went into battle without gathering as much intelligence about their enemy as possible. This meant going undercover. While some warriors disguised themselves as holy men, others would appear as nothing but mere traders.

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In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

Only once they had all of the necessary information about their enemy would they attack.

They Fermented Horse Milk And Made It Alcoholic

Even off fighting battles, the Mongol army had a way of having a bit of fun. They had a nice glass of horse milk! This wasn’t typical milk, though. the men would ferment the milk, a process that actually made the liquid alcoholic.

Genghis Khan (1162-1227). Engraving. Colored.
Ipsumpix/Corbis via Getty Images
Ipsumpix/Corbis via Getty Images

The milk was called kumis and contained anywhere between one to three percent alcohol.

Take Enemy Technology

When Genghis Khan originally led his army on campaigns, they utilized primitive gear. So, when the enemy was defeated, it was a matter of taking their more modern technology and using it to their advantage.

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Francois LOCHON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Francois LOCHON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Soldiers soon found themselves wearing chainmail, steel helmets, and even armor to protect their horses.

Greasy And Animal Fat-Coated Hands

The Mongol army wasn’t the cleanliest group, but there was a reason behind their lack of bathing. After meals, their hands would be coated with grease and fat from an animal.

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Stormseeker/Unsplash
Stormseeker/Unsplash

They would wipe their hands on their clothing, allowing the fat to become pseudo insulation on their clothing to keep them warm during the colder months.

Keep The Pace

One of the great advantages Genghis Khan had over his enemies was the sheer number of horses at his disposal. At times, he would have his men ride up to 75 miles in order to get to a location.

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Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

This meant the men had to keep pace with the troops.

Females Were Instructed To Have Extravagant Hair

Females weren’t necessarily soldiers, but some were still included in the inner circle of Genghis Khan’s empire, such as queen consort Genepil. To let people know their importance, females would style their hair in extravagant ways.

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Caak/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Caak/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Using gems and jewels, females would make their hair big, tall, and intricate to show their importance.

At Times, They Resorted To Drinking Blood

Fighting battles, conquering land, and traveling long distances resulted in supplies growing scarce, including water. Instead of finding a source to drink from, the Mongol army did something else entirely.

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Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

With so many at their disposal, the men resorted to drinking the blood of their horses in order to hydrate.

Spiritual Food Had A Higher Worth

The Mongol army wasn’t necessarily inclined to eat food worth any nutritional value. Instead, they went after the food they believed to hold spiritual value. Some of the more “spiritual” food items included wolves, donkeys, and marmots.

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In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

They believed these food sources could do numerous things, including depression and even illness.

Fire Was Used To Purify Objects…And People

While taking control of land and people, the Mongol army discovered something else; the purification fire brought to objects. They weren’t using fire to kill germs but rather used it as a spiritual phenomenon.

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Vadim Sadovski/Unsplash
Vadim Sadovski/Unsplash

The bad side to their awakening was that while they passed inanimate objects through the flames, they also put people in the fire to purify their souls!