19. Genghis Khan Conquered Despite Being Greatly Outnumbered
The Mongols and other Steppe nomads absorbed by Genghis Khan learned how to ride horses when they were toddlers, and were taught how to master the bow and arrow since early childhood. That made them prime cavalry material when they joined Genghis’ army, where they underwent extensive training that transformed them into a mounted elite. Genghis saw to it that his men practiced the individual skills of archery and horsemanship almost daily, and had them train constantly to master unit tactics. He drilled them in maneuvers, formation changes, rotations, advances, retreats, and massed archery, until they became second nature.
Today, “hordes” are taken to mean huge quantities. So when people think of Mongol “hordes”, they usually picture vast swarms of disorganized barbarians who attacked in a wild charge, and overwhelmed their enemy with numbers and reckless savagery. In reality, “horde”, derived from orda, a word that never meant something huge, but simply an organized group. Genghis’ Mongols seldom had numerical superiority over their foes. Instead, they swept across Eurasia and conquered a vast empire despite being severely outnumbered by their enemies. Indeed, the Great Khan and his warriors won their empire by routinely annihilating opposing forces that outnumbered them by factors of two to one, three to one, and four to one or more. They won despite their numerical inferiority because they were professionals, who were extremely good at warfare.