Difference Between Catapult and Trebuchet (With Table)

Listen audio version

Catapult and Trebuchet are a set of ancient weapons used to destroy walls and fortresses during war times. It is quite possible to think that Catapult and Trebuchet are the same, however, there are multiple differences between the two.

Catapult vs Trebuchet

The difference between Catapult and Trebuchet is that Catapult is commonly used for hurling objects of small size and weight, while Trebuchet can throw heavy projectiles.

However, the above is not the only difference. A comparison between both the terms on certain parameters can shed light on subtle aspects:


Comparison Table Between Catapult and Trebuchet (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonCatapultTrebuchet
MeaningCatapult is a type of device used to throw objects at great distancesTrebuchet is a type of Catapult
Which one was invented first?Catapult was first usedTrebuchet came into use after some time
How do they function?Uses abrupt release of reserved potential energy to drive or push the load. The energy can be built using devices such as wooden springs, twisted ropes, or other methods.Uses mechanical energy to throw a projectile.
Does it have a long arm?NoYes
Which is better?May not be able to lift heavy objectsTrebuchet is better as it can lift heavy objects, but suitability depends on other factors
Which one has got a greater or longer range?Less rangeLonger range
Maximum weight topAt around 180 poundsAround 350 pounds i.e. double that of Catapult
Can Catapult be considered as Trebuchet and vice versa?There are different types of Catapult and Trebuchet is one of them; Catapult is any device which can throw an objectTrebuchet is a type of Catapult
Does it use traction and gravity to hurl objects?No, however, can depend on the type of CatapultYes
Does it use torsion spring?YesNo, they commonly use wood
Which one is more movable while carrying?Catapult is more movable as it has less weight, however, depends on the type of Catapult and the mode of movementMore difficult to move because of its heavy load and large size
Which one carries more impact?Has less impactMore impactful
Which one is more popular or common in use?Not so popular because of its certain limitations but depends on suitability for specific usesMore popular because of its impact and acceleration
Which one was more popular during the Middle Ages?Catapult was more popularTrebuchet came into the picture later
Which is more accurate?Catapult is more accurate, especially the ones which throw small stonesLess accuracy and it is mostly suited to throw heavy projectiles
Does climate affect?Yes, because it is built on springs, due to rains the springs may not work properlyLess 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 a type of instrument or machine which can throw an object. Catapult is a device specially used to set in motion projectiles at a significant distance. Catapult is usually small in size.

Catapults are of different types, the commons ones being with twisted springs. Other types of Catapult include ballistae (Catapult used in ancient warfare for hurling large stones which worked through the action of twisting). The other widely used Catapult 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 inflammable objects or even medium-large stones. Catapults have been used in war activities since ancient times. Catapult was considered as 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 as a Catapult. Also, if we consider the aspect of launching an aircraft from a navy ship, it is based on the mechanism of the working of Catapult.


What is Trebuchet?

Trebuchet is a large 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 on the West wherein there were multiple variations in the design and methods of working.

Trebuchet main features include heavy load carrying and a flexible strap or belt used in the form of a loop to support the loaded objects or to launch the projectiles. The trebuchet can be considered to have 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 easily movable and even if one has to move it may require significant manpower. 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 which is also known as mangonel (which uses manpower) 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 as 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 projectiles.
  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 capacity 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.



Catapult and Trebuchet have been used for a long time as war weapons. Both of them have their pros and cons. Catapult and Trebuchet were designed to throw huge objects at castle walls or forts to destroy the walls. However, of late, Catapult and Trebuchet have lost significance due to the advancement of other better automatic war weapons in the market.



  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