Difference Between Catapult and Trebuchet

Catapult and Trebuchet were a set of ancient weapons used to destroy walls and fortresses during war times.


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Key Takeaways

  1. Catapults are ancient siege weapons that use tension or torsion to launch projectiles, whereas trebuchets are medieval siege weapons that employ a counterweight and lever system to hurl projectiles.
  2. Catapults include devices such as ballistae and onagers, which use twisted rope or sinew to store energy. In contrast, trebuchets rely on the force of gravity to transfer energy from the counterweight to the projectile.
  3. Trebuchets generally have a longer range and greater accuracy than catapults, making them more effective for attacking fortified structures and walls.

A catapult uses tension to store energy, while a trebuchet uses gravity. Catapults were typically smaller, lighter, and easier to operate than trebuchets. Trebuchets were more extensive and could launch heavier projectiles at greater distances. To spread disease, trebuchets could also launch various projectile types, including rocks, burning materials, and even livestock.

Catapult vs Trebuchet

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Parameter of ComparisonCatapultTrebuchet
MeaningCatapult was a type of device used to throw objects at great distancesTrebuchet was a type of Catapult
Which one was invented first?Catapult was first used.Trebuchet came into use after some time
How do they function?Uses abrupt release of reserved potential energy to drive or push the load. The power can be built using wooden springs, twisted ropes, or other methods.It used mechanical energy to throw a projectile.
Does it have a long arm?NoYes
Which is better?Not able to lift heavy objects.Trebuchet was better as it could lift heavy objects, but suitability depends on other factors.
Maximum weight topAt around 180 poundsAround 350 pounds, i.e., double that of Catapult
Does it use traction and gravity to hurl objects?No, however, it could depend on the type of CatapultYes
Which one carries more impact?Has less impactMore impactful
Which is more accurate?Catapult was more accurate.Less accuracy, and it was mainly suited to throwing heavy projectiles.
Does climate affect?Yes, because it was built on springs, the springs may not work correctly due to rain.Less effect


What is Catapult?

Catapult is a device for shooting small stones. Catapult is made of a Y-shaped stick with a piece of elastic tied between the two top parts.

In simple terms, Catapult is an instrument or machine that can throw an object. Catapult is a device specially used to set projectiles in motion at a significant distance. Catapult is usually tiny in size.

Catapults are of different types, the common ones being with twisted springs. Other kinds of Catapults include ballistae (Catapult used in ancient warfare for hurling large stones which worked through the action of twisting).

The other widely used Catapults in medieval times included mangonel or onagers (specifically designed to throw heavy objects), sprinkled (more for use in a limited space), and finally, Trebuchet.

Catapult can throw small objects (around in the range of 10-25 kg). Catapults can throw fire-producing or flammable objects or even medium-large stones.

Catapults have been used in war activities since ancient times. Catapult was considered one of the effective weapons to destroy enemy key objects. 

Catapult is also available in modern times; for example, a device like a slingshot can be considered a Catapult. Also, if we consider launching an aircraft from a navy ship, it is based on the mechanism of the working Catapult.


What is Trebuchet?

Trebuchet is a sizeable medieval siege engine for hurling missiles consisting of a sling on a pivoted wooden arm set in motion by the fall of a weight. The trebuchet was first coined in China and then later progressed to the West, wherein there were multiple variations in the design and methods of working.

Trebuchet’s main features include heavy load carrying and a flexible strap or belt used as a loop to support the loaded objects or launch the projectiles. The trebuchet has enormous power to throw even a horse (around 200 kg plus) up to 500 meters.

The trebuchet can be extremely heavy in size. Trebuchet is not readily movable; even if one has to move it, it may require a significant workforce.

Trebuchet will have 4 portions or parts: the first one is a motionless frame, the second one is a signal on a shaft, the third is a slingback to hold the load or object, and finally, the ropes on each side to pull down the beam.

Trebuchet is a type of Catapult. Also, there are other types of Trebuchet, such as traction Trebuchet, also known as mangonel (which uses staffing), and counterweight Trebuchet (which is extremely large).

Trebuchet is very popular amongst the people who engage in warfare as Trebuchet carries more impact when used compared to other weapons in the same category. The trebuchet was once considered the preferred and the most effective weapon in the war until the appearance of guns and arms.


Main Differences Between Catapult and Trebuchet

  1. Catapult may not have the ability to lift and throw heavy projectiles. The trebuchet can throw heavy shells.
  2. Catapult is not a type of Trebuchet. Trebuchet is a type of Catapult.
  3. Catapult has less capacity to hurl objects at long distances. Trebuchet has more ability to throw objects at long distances.
  4. Catapult has less speed and impact. Trebuchet has more speed and impact.
  5. Catapult is a small device. Trebuchet is a large device.
  6. Catapult is easily movable. Trebuchet is not easily movable.
Difference Between Catapult and Trebuchet
  1. https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA14954371&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=00256501&p=AONE&sw=w
  2. https://www.brepolsonline.net/doi/pdf/10.1484/J.VIATOR.2.301479
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