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Soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback in combat are commonly known as cavalry (from French cavalerie). The designation was not usually extended to any military force which used other animals, such as camels or mules. Infantry who moved on horseback but dismounted to fight on foot were in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries known as dragoons, a class of mounted troops which later evolved into cavalry proper while retaining their historic title. From earliest times cavalry had the advantage of improved mobility, an "instrument which multiplied the fighting value of even the smallest forces, allowing them to outflank and avoid, to surprise and overpower, to retreat and escape according to the requirements of the moment." A man fighting from horseback also had the advantage of height, speed and weight over an opponent on foot.
In some modern armies (especially the United States Army), the term cavalry is often used for units that fill the traditional horse-borne light cavalry roles of scouting, screening, skirmishing and raiding. The shock role, traditionally filled by heavy cavalry, is generally filled by units with the "armoured" designation.
Before the Iron Age, the role of cavalry on the battlefield was largely performed by light chariots. The chariot originated with the Sintashta-Petrovka culture in Central Asia and spread by nomadic or semi-nomadic Indo-Iranians <ref>Chariot racers of the Steppes, Discover, April, 1995 by Shanti Menon</ref>. The chariot was quickly adopted by settled peoples both as a military technology and an object of ceremonial status, especially by the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom of Egypt as well as Assyrian and Babylonian royalty.The power of mobility given by mounted units was recognized early on, but was offset by the difficulty of raising large forces and by the inability of horses (then mostly small) to carry heavy armor. Cavalry techniques were an innovation of equestrian nomads of the Central Asian and Iranian steppe and pastoralist tribes such as the Persian Parthians and Sarmatians.
As early as 490 BC a breed of large horses was bred in the Nisaean plain in Media to carry men with increasing amounts of armour (Herodotus 7,40 & 9,20). But large horses were still very exceptional at this time. Excepting scythed chariots the use of chariots in battle was obsolete by the time of the Persian defeat in the hands of Alexander the Great, but chariots remained in use for ceremonial purposes such as carrying the victorious general in a Roman triumph and among the Gallic and Germanic tribes.
 Ancient Greece and Macedon
Cavalry played a relatively minor role in Ancient Greece, with conflicts decided by massed armored infantry. However, Thessaly was widely known for producing competent cavalrymen, and later experiences in wars both with and against the Persians taught the Greeks the value of cavalry in skirmishing and pursuit. The Athenian author and soldier Xenophon in particular advocated the creation of a small but well-trained cavalry force; to that end, he wrote several manuals on horsemanship and cavalry operations.
The Macedonian kingdom in the north, on the other hand, developed a strong cavalry force that culminated in the hetairoi (Companion cavalry) of Philip II and Alexander the Great. In addition to these heavy cavalry, the Macedonian combined arms army also employed lighter horsemen called prodromoi for scouting and screening, as well as the Macedonian pike phalanx and various kinds of light infantry. The effectiveness of this combined-arms system was most dramatically demonstrated in Alexander's conquest of Persia, Bactria, and northwestern India.
 Roman Republic and Early Empirelanded class known as the Equites --men who could afford the expense of maintaining a horse in addition to arms and armor heavier than those of the common legions. As the class grew to be more of a social elite instead of a functional property-based military grouping, the Romans began to employ Italian socii for filling the ranks of their cavalry. At about the same time the Romans began to recruit foreign auxiliary cavalry from among Gauls, Iberians, and Numidians, the last being highly valued as mounted skirmishers and scouts. Julius Caesar himself was known for his escort of Germanic cavalry, while the early Emperors maintained an ala of Batavian cavalry as their bodyguards until the unit was dismissed by Galba.
For the most part, Roman cavalry during the Republic functioned as an adjunct to the legionary infantry. This does not mean that its utility could be underestimated, though, as its strategic role in scouting, skirmishing, and outpost duties was crucial to the Romans' capability to conduct operations over long distances in hostile or unfamiliar territory. In some occasions it also proved its ability to strike a decisive tactical blow against a weakened or unprepared enemy.
 Late Roman Empire and the Migration Period
In the army of the late Roman Empire, cavalry played an increasingly important role. The Spatha, the classical sword throughout most of the 1st millennium which had originated among the Germanic peoples, was adopted as the standard model for the Empire's cavalry forces. The Eastern Roman Empire itself came to rely increasingly on Visigothic and Sarmatian heavy cavalry as the primary shock force of its armies.
The most widespread employment of heavy cavalry at this time was found in the forces of the Parthians and their Iranian Sassanid successors. Both, but especially the latter, were famed for the cataphract (fully-armored cavalry armed with lances) even though the majority of their forces consisted of lighter horse archers . The West first encountered this eastern heavy cavalry during the Hellenistic period with further intensive contacts during the eight centuries of the Roman-Persian wars. At first the Parthians' mobility greatly confounded the Romans, whose excellent close-order infantry still proved unable to match the speed of the Parthian strategic deployments. However, later the Romans would successfully adapt such heavy armor and tactics by creating their own units of cataphracts and clibanarii .
The decline of the Roman infrastructure made it more difficult to field large infantry forces, and during the fourth and fifth centuries cavalry began to take a more dominant role on the European battlefield, also in part made possible by the appearance of new, larger breeds of horses. The replacement of the Roman saddle by variants on the Scythian model, with pommel and cantle, was also a significant factor as was the adoption of stirrups and the concomitant increase in stability of the rider's seat. Armored Cataphracts began to be deployed in eastern Europe and the near East, following the precedents established by Persian forces, as the main striking force of the armies in contrast to the earlier roles of cavalry as scouts, raiders, and outflankers.
In eastern Europe, Russia, and out onto the steppes cavalry remained important much longer and dominated the scene of warfare until the early 1600s and even beyond, as the strategic mobility of cavalry was crucial for the semi-nomadic pastoralist lives that many steppe cultures lead. Huns, Mongols and Cossacks are examples of the horse-mounted peripheral peoples that managed to gain substantial successes in military conflicts with settled agrarian and urban societies, due to their strategic and tactical mobility. As European states began to assume the character of bureaucratic nation-states supporting professional standing armies, recruitment of these mounted warriors was undertaken in order to fill the strategic roles of scouts and raiders. The best known instance of the continued employment of mounted tribal auxiliaries were the Cossack cavalry regiments of Tsarist Russia.
Further east, the military history of China was a scene of intense military exchange between the powerful infantry forces of the settled empires and the mounted "barbarians" of the north. First introduced by King Wuling of Zhao.On many occasions the Chinese studied nomadic cavalry tactics and applied the lessons in creating their own potent cavalry forces, while in others they simply recruited the tribal horsemen wholesale into their armies; and in yet other cases nomadic empires have proved eager to enlist Chinese infantry and engineering, as in the case of the Mongol Empire and its sinicized part, the Yuan Dynasty.
In the Indian subcontinent, cavalry played a major role from the Gupta Dynasty period onwards. Native Indian cavalry forces proved decisive in the defeat of nomadic invaders such as the White Huns, and the Mughal occupation met serious opposition from the excellent Maratha cavalry. India has also the oldest evidence for the introduction of toe-stirrups.
 European Middle Ages
Although Roman cavalry had no stirrups, their horned saddle allowed the combination of a firm seat with substantial flexibility. But the introduction of the wraparound saddle during the Middle Ages provided greater efficiency in mounted shock combat and the invention of stirrup enabled a broader array of attacks to be delivered from the back of a horse. As a greater weight of man and armor could be supported in the saddle, the probability of being dismounted in combat was significantly reduced. In particular, a charge with the lance couched under the armpit would no longer turn into pole vaulting; this eventually led to an enormous increase in the impact of the charge. Last but not least, the introduction of spurs allowed better control of the mount during the "knightly charge" in full gallop. In western Europe there emerged what is considered the "ultimate" heavy cavalry, the knight. The knights and other similarly equipped mounted men-at-arms charged in close formation, exchanging flexibility for a massive, irresistible first charge.
The mounted men-at-arms quickly became an important force in Western European tactics, although it is worth noting that Medieval military doctrine actually employed them as part of a combined-arms force along with various kinds of foot troops. Still, Medieval chroniclers tended to pay undue attention to the knights at the expense of the rank and file, and this has led early students of military history to suppose that this heavy cavalry was the only force that mattered on Medieval European battlefields--a view with hardly any grounding in reality. Massed English longbowmen triumphed over French cavalry at Crécy, Poitiers and Agincourt, while at Gisors (1188), Bannockburn (1314), and Laupen (1339), foot-soldiers proved their invulnerability to cavalry charges as long as they held their formation. However, the rise of infantry as the principal arm had to wait for the Swiss to develop their pike squares into an offensive arm instead of a defensive one; this new aggressive doctrine brought the Swiss to victory over a range of adversaries, and their enemies found that the only reliable way to defeat them was by the use of an even more comprehensive combined arms doctrine as evidenced in the Battle of Marignano. The introduction of missile weapons that were simpler to use, such as the crossbow and the hand gonnes, also helped remove the focus somewhat from cavalry elites to masses of cheap infantry equipped with easy-to-learn weapons.
This gradual rise in the dominance of infantry led to the adoption of dismounted tactics. From the earliest times knights and mounted men-at-arms had frequently dismounted to handle enemies they could not overcome on horseback, such as in the Battle of the Dyle (891), but after 1350s this trend became more marked with the dismounted men-at-arms fighting as super-heavy infantry with two-handed swords and poleaxes. In any case, warfare in the Middle Ages tended to be dominated by raids and sieges rather than pitched battles, and mounted men-at-arms rarely had any choice other than dismounting when faced with the prospect of assaulting a fortified position.
 Renaissance Europe
Ironically, the rise of infantry in the early 16th century coincided with the "golden age" of heavy cavalry; a French or Spanish army at the beginning of the century could have up to 50 percent of its numbers filled with various kinds of light and heavy cavalry, whereas in medieval and 17th-century armies the proportion of cavalry seldom rose beyond twenty-five percent. Knighthood largely lost its military functions and became more closely tied to social and economic prestige in an increasingly capitalistic Western society. With the rise of drilled and trained infantry, the mounted men-at-arms, now sometimes called gendarmes and often part of the standing army themselves, adopted the same role as in the Hellenistic age - that of delivering a decisive blow once the battle was already engaged by either charging the enemy in the flank or attacking their commander-in-chief.
From the 1550s onwards, the use of gunpowder weapons solidified infantry's dominance of the battlefield and began to allow true mass armies to develop. This is closely related to the increase in the size of armies throughout the early modern period; heavily armored cavalrymen were expensive to raise and maintain and it took years to replace a skilled horseman or a trained horse, while arquebusiers and later musketeers could be trained and kept in the field at a much lower expense in addition to being much easier to replace. The Spanish tercio and later formations relegated cavalry to a supporting role. The pistol was specifically developed to try and bring cavalry back into the conflict, together with manoeuvres such as the caracole. These innovations were not particularly successful, however, and soon the charge was revived as the primary mode of employment for European cavalry, although by this time it was delivered in much deeper formations and with greater discipline than before. The demi-lancers and the heavily armored sword-and-pistol reiters were among the types of cavalry that experienced their heydays in the 16th and 17th centuries. These centuries also witnessed the high-water mark of the Polish husaria, a force of heavy cavalry that achieved great success with their lances against Swedes, Russians, and Turks alike.
 Eighteenth Century Europe and Napoleonic Warfare
In any case, cavalry still had a role to play. First and foremost they remained the primary choice for confronting enemy cavalry. Attacking an unbroken infantry force head-on was usually unsuccessful, but the extended linear formations were vulnerable to flank or rear attacks. Cavalry was important at Blenheim (1704), Rossbach (1757), and Friedland (1807), remaining a significant factor throughout the Napoleonic Wars. Massed infantry was deadly to cavalry but also offered an excellent target for artillery. Once the bombardment had disordered the infantry formation, cavalry were able to rout and pursue the scattered footmen. It was not until individual firearms gained accuracy and improved rates of fire that cavalry was diminished in this role as well. Even then light cavalry remained an indispensable tool for scouting, screening the army's movements, and harassing the enemy's supply lines until military aircraft supplanted them in this role in the early stages of World War I.
By the Nineteenth Century, European cavalry fell into four main categories:
- Cuirassiers, heavy cavalry
- Dragoons, originally mounted infantry but later regarded as medium cavalry
- Hussars, light cavalry
- Lancers or Uhlans, light cavalry armed with lances
There were cavalry variations for individual nations as well: France had the chasseurs à cheval; Germany had the Jäger zu Pferd; Bavaria had the Chevaulegers; and Russia had Cossacks. Britain had no cuirassiers (other than the Household Cavalry), but had Dragoon Guards regiments which were classed as heavy cavalry. In the United States Army, the cavalry were almost always dragoons. The Imperial Japanese Army had its cavalry dressed as hussars, but fought as dragoons.
 19th century
In the early American Civil War cavalry regiments were recruited to full capacity very quickly in many states, but the infantry played a much larger role in many battles due to its larger numbers and much easier recruitment. However cavalry saw a role as part of screening forces and in foraging and scouting. The later phases of the war saw the Federal army developing a truly effective cavalry force fighting as scouts, raiders, and mounted infantry.
 19th-century Imperial Expansion
Cavalry found new success in Imperial operations (irregular warfare), where modern weapons were lacking and the slow moving infantry-artillery train or fixed fortifications were often ineffective against native insurgents (unless the natives offered a fight on an equal footing, as at Tel-el-Kebir, Omdurman, etc). Cavalry "flying columns" proved effective, or at least cost-effective, in many campaigns—although an astute native commander (like Samori in western Africa, Shamil in the Caucasus, or any of the better Boer commanders) could turn the tables and use the greater mobility of their cavalry to offset their relative lack of firepower compared to European forces.
The British Indian Army maintained about forty regiments of cavalry, officered by British and manned by Indian sowars (cavalrymen). The legendary exploits of this branch lives on in literature and early films. Among the more famous regiments in the lineages of modern Indian and Pakistani Armies are:
- Governor General's Bodyguard (now President's Bodyguard)
- Skinner's Horse (now Indian 1st Horse (Skinner's))
- Gardner's Lancers (now Indian 2nd Lancers (Gardner's))
- Hodson's Horse (now Indian 3rd Horse (Hodson's)) of the Bengal Lancers fame
- 6th Bengal Cavalry (later amalgamated with 7th Hariana Lancers to form 18th King Edward's Own Cavalry) now 18 Cavalry of the Indian Army
- Probyn's Horse (now Pakistani)
- Royal Deccan Horse (now Indian The Deccan Horse)
- Poona Horse (now Indian The Poona Horse)
- Queen's Own Guides Cavalry (now partitioned between Pakistan and India).
Several of these formations are still active, though they now are armoured formations, for example Guides Cavalry in Pakistan. 
The French Army maintained substantial cavalry forces in Algeria and Morocco from 1830 until the Second World War. Much of the Mediterranean coastal terrain was suitable for mounted action and there was a long established culture of horsemanship amongst the Arab and Berber inhabitants. The French forces included Spahis, Chasseurs d' Afrique and mounted Goums.
 Cavalry's demise
At the beginning of the 20th century all armies still maintained substantial cavalry forces although there was contention over whether their role should revert to that of mounted infantry (the historic dragoon function). Following their experience of the South African War of 1899 - 1902 (where mounted Boer citizen commandos fighting on foot from cover proved superior to regular cavalry) the British Army withdrew lances for all but ceremonial purposes and placed a new emphasis on training for dismounted action. In 1908 the lancer regiments resumed this impressive but obsolete weapon. Between 1881 and 1910 the Imperial Russian Army converted all its line hussar, lancer and cuirassier regiments to dragoons with an emphasis on mounted infantry training. In 1910 they reverted to their historic roles, designations and uniforms.
In August 1914 all combatant armies still retained substantial numbers of cavalry and the mobile nature of the opening battles on both Eastern and Western Fronts provided a number of instances of traditional cavalry actions, though on a smaller and more scattered scale than those of previous wars. The Imperial German Cavalry, while as colourful and traditional as any in peacetime appearance, had adopted a practice of falling back on infantry support when any substantial opposition was encountered. These cautious tactics aroused derision amongst their more conservative French and Russian opponents but proved appropriate to the new nature of warfare. Once the front lines stabilised, a combination of barbed wire, machine guns and rapid fire rifles proved deadly to horse mounted troops. For the remainder of the War on the Western Front cavalry had virtually no role to play. The British and French armies dismounted many of their cavalry regiments and used them in infantry and other roles (the Life Guards for example as a machine gun corps). Some cavalry were retained as mounted troops behind the lines in anticipation of a breakthrough of the trenches that never came. The German Army dismounted nearly all their cavalry in the West.
In the wider spaces of the Eastern Front a more fluid form of warfare continued and there was some use for mounted troops. Even here though the value of cavalry was over-rated and the maintenance of large mounted formations at the front by the Russian Army put a major strain on the railway system, to little strategic advantage.
In the Middle East mounted forces (British, Indian, Turkish, Australian, Arab and New Zealand) retained an important role, though of the mounted infantry variety.
 Post World War I
In retrospect it was clear that by 1918 the advent of modern vehicles with effective mobility and armor such as tanks and armored cars had spelled the end of horse troops as the key mobile element of an army. This change was made even more necessary by the development of the machine gun and other weapons which could easily destroy cavalry formations. Military aircraft had taken over the light cavalry roles of scouting, screening, and harassment at roughly the same time. As a result horses became relegated to logistical roles, with few exceptions (see tachanka), and cavalry traditions and insignia were often inherited by the emerging armored formations and air forces.
A combination of military conservatism in almost all armies and post-war financial constraints prevented the lessons of 1914-18 being acted on immediately. There was a general reduction in the number of cavalry regiments in the British, French, Italian and other Western armies but it was still argued with conviction (for example in the 1922 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannia) that mounted troops had a major role to play in future warfare. The 1920s saw an interim period during which cavalry remained as a proud and conspicuous element of all major armies, though much less so than prior to 1914.
The last major cavalry battle was the Battle of Komarów in 1920. Colonial warfare in Morocco, Syria, the Middle East and the North West Frontier of India provided some opportunities for mounted action against enemies lacking advanced weaponry.
Interestingly the post-war German Army (Reichsheer) was permitted a large proportion of cavalry (18 regiments or 16.4% of total manpower) under the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. The US Cavalry abandoned its sabres in 1934 and commenced the conversion of its horsed regiments to mechanised cavalry, starting with the First Regiment of Cavalry in January 1933.
In the British Army, all cavalry regiments were mechanised between 1929 and 1941, redefining their role from horse to armoured vehicles to form the Royal Armoured Corps together with the Royal Tank Regiment.
During the 1930s the French Army experimented with integrating mounted and mechanised cavalry units into larger formations. Dragoon regiments were converted to motorised infantry (trucks and motor cycles), cuirassiers to armoured units, while light cavalry (Chasseurs a'Cheval, Hussars and Spahis) remained mounted sabre squadrons. The theory was that mixed forces comprising these diverse units could utilise the strengths of each according to circumstances. In practice mounted troops proved unable to keep up with fast moving mechanised units over any distance.
 World War II
Cavalry charges in modern warfare were still seen in the earlier stages of Second World War, when Polish and Soviet cavalry regiments operated against invading German forces. A popular myth is that Polish cavalry armed with lances charged German tanks during the September 1939 campaign. This arose from misreporting of a single clash on 1 September near Krojanty, when two squadrons of the Polish 18th Lancers armed with sabres scattered German infantry before being caught in the open by German armoured cars<ref>Zaloga, S. J.. "The Polish Army 1939-45". ISBN 0-85045-417-4.</ref>. See also Polish cavalry. Actually, a more correct term should be "mounted infantry" instead of "cavalry", as horses were primarily used as a mean of transportation, for which they were very suitable in view of the very poor road conditions in pre-war Poland. Another myth describes Polish cavalry as being armed with both sabres and lances; lances were used for peacetime ceremonial purposes only and the primary weapon of the Polish cavalryman in 1939 was a rifle. Individual equipment did include a sabre, probably because of well-established tradition, but in the case of a melee combat this secondary weapon would probably be more effective than a rifle and bayonet. Moreover, the Polish cavalry brigade order of battle of 1939 included, apart from the mounted soldiers themselves, light and heavy machine guns (wheeled), anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapon, artillery, light and scout tanks, etc.
The last substantive cavalry charge of the war was probably that made by the Italian regiment Savoia Cavalleria on the Eastern Front and this time the charge was successful since it was against infantry, not armoured vehicles.
By the final stages of the war only the Soviet Union was still fielding mounted units in substantial numbers, some in combined mechanised and horse units. Romanian, Hungarian and Italian cavalry had been dispersed or disbanded following the retreat of the Axis forces from Russia. Germany still maintained some mounted (mixed with bicycles) SS and Cossack units until the last days of the War. 18th Indian Cavalry Regiment (later 18 Cavalry of Indian Army), fought in a dismounted role, in Tobruk as part of 9th Australian Division. All British cavalry had been mechanised since 1942 and the last horsed US Cavalry (the Second Cavalry Division) were dismounted in March 1944.
The final cavalry charge by British Empire forces occurred on 21 March 1942 when a 60 strong patrol of the Burma Frontier Force encountered Japanese infantry near Toungoo airfield in central Burma. The Sikh sowars of the Frontier Force cavalry, led by Captain Arthur Sandeman, charged in the old style with sabres and most were killed.
 Post World War II to present day
Several armored divisions of the modern United States Army retain the designation of "cavalry". The United States also has air cavalry units equipped with helicopters. However, the United States Army still has a single regiment of mounted cavalry. The Parsons' Mounted Cavalry is a Reserve Officer regiment which forms part of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University.
While most modern "cavalry" units have some historic connection with formerly mounted troops this is not always the case. The modern Irish Defence Force (IDF) includes a "Cavalry Corps" equipped with Panhard armoured cars and Scorpion tracked combat reconnaissance vehicles. The Irish Defense Force has never included horse cavalry since its establishment in 1922 (other than a small mounted escort drawn from the Artillery Corps when required for ceremonial occasions). However, the mystique of the cavalry is such that the name has been introduced for what was always a mechanised force.
Some engagements in late twentieth and early twenty first century guerrilla wars involved mounted troops, particularly against partisan or guerrilla fighters in areas with poor transport infrastructure. Such units were not used as cavalry but rather as mounted infantry. Examples occurred in Afghanistan, Portuguese Africa and Rhodesia. The French Army used existing mounted squadrons of Spahis to a limited extent for patrol work during the Algerian War (1954-62) and the Swiss Army maintained a mounted dragoon regiment for combat purposes until 1973. There were reports of Chinese mounted troops in action during frontier clashes with Vietnam in the mid 1970s.
South and Central American armies maintained mounted cavalry later than those of Europe, Asia or North America. The Mexican Army still included a number of horse cavalry regiments as late as the early 1980s and the Chilean Army had five such regiments in 1983 as mounted mountain troops (see Jane's "Armed Forces of Latin America" by Adrian J. English).
A number of armoured regiments in the British Army retain the historic designations of Hussars, Dragoons, Dragoon Guards or Lancers. Only the Household Cavalry squadrons maintained for ceremonial duties in London are mounted.
Cavalry or mounted gendarmerie units continue to be maintained for purely ceremonial purposes by the British, French, Italian, Danish, Swedish, Dutch, Chilean, Portuguese, Moroccan, Nigerian, Venezuelan, Brazilian, Peruvian, Paraguayan, Argentine, Senegalese, Jordanian, Pakistani, Indian, Nepalese, Spanish and Bulgarian armed forces. The Army of the Russian Federation has recently reintroduced a ceremonial mounted squadron wearing historic uniforms.
Both the Australian and New Zealand Armies follow the British practice of maintaining traditional titles (Light Horse or Mounted Rifles) for modern mechanised units. The French Army still has regiments with the historic designations of Cuirassiers, Hussars, Chasseurs, Dragoons and Spahis. Only the cavalry of the Republican Guard and a ceremonial fanfare (trumpeters) for the cavalry/armoured branch as a whole are now mounted.
Today Indian Army's 61st Cavalry is the only non-ceremonial horse-mounted cavalry in the Indian Sub-Continent -- raised from the amalgamated state forces cavalry squadrons of Gwailior, Jodhpur and Mysore in 1951. Both the Indian and Pakistan Armies maintain armoured regiments with the titles of Lancers or Horse dating back to the nineteenth century.
In the Canadian Army a number of both regular and reserve units have cavalry roots. These include The Governor General's Horse Guards, Lord Strathcona's Horse, The Royal Canadian Dragoons, and The South Alberta Light Horse.
 Light and heavy cavalry
Early light cavalry (like the auxiliaries of the Roman army) were typically used to scout and skirmish and to cut down retreating infantry. Heavy cavalry like the Byzantine Cataphract were used as shock troops — they would charge the main body of the enemy and in many cases, their actions decided the outcome of the battle.
During the Gunpowder Age, armored cavalry began to approach obsolescence. However, many units retained cuirasses and helmets for their protective value against sword and bayonet strikes and the morale boost these provide to the wearers. By this time the main difference between light and heavy cavalry was their training; the former was regarded as a tool for harassment and reconnaissance, while the latter was considered best for close-order charges.
Since the development of armored warfare the distinction between light and heavy armor has persisted basically along the same lines. Armored cars and light tanks have adopted the reconnaissance role while medium and heavy tanks are regarded as the decisive shock troops.
 Social status
From the beginning of civilization to the 20th century, ownership of heavy cavalry horses has been a mark of wealth amongst settled peoples. A cavalry horse involves considerable expense in breeding, training, feeding, and equipment, and has very little productive use except as a mode of transport.
For this reason, and because of their often decisive military role, the cavalry has typically been associated with high social status. This was most clearly seen in the feudal system, where a lord was expected to enter combat armored and on horseback and bring with him an entourage of peasants on foot. If landlords and peasants came into conflict, the peasants would be ill-equipped to defeat armored knights.
In later national armies service as an officer in the cavalry was generally a badge of high social status. For instance prior to 1914 most officers of British cavalry regiments came from a socially privileged background and the considerable expenses associated with their role generally required private means, even after it became possible for officers of the line infantry regiments to live on their pay. Options open to poorer cavalry officers in the various European armies included service with less fashionable (though often highly professional) frontier or colonial units. These included the British Indian cavalry, the Russian Cossacks or the French Chasseurs d' Afrique.
 Some cavalry forces
- Bayreuth Dragoons
- Blues and Royals
- Hakkapeliitta (Finnish cavalry of Thirty Years' War fame)
- Governor General's Horse Guards (Canada)
- Life Guards
- Light horse (Australia)
- Polish cavalry
- Savari (Italian North African)
- Savoia Cavalry
- Sipahi (Ottoman)
- Spahi (French North African)
- United States Cavalry
 Some contemporary horse cavalry officers
- Brazil: Ataìde Barcelos Pereira, Regimento Osorio
- Canada: Akaash Maharaj, Governor General's Horse Guards
- France: Didier Courrèges, Cadre Noir
- Italy: Giulio Serafini, COMFOD 1
- UK: Harry Wales, Blues and Royals
- USA: Edwin Ramsey, 26th Cavalry regiment
 Other meanings of the word
- The term "coalhole cavalry" was sometimes used as slang for "coalminers" in parts of northern England, because they wore clogs which walking over granite setts made a noise like horses' hoofs.
 See also
- Cavalry tactics
- War horse
- War elephant
- Tent pegging
- Ski warfare
- See List of British Army regiments by year, for cavalry units: 1881, 1962, 1994
- Cavalry in the American Civil War
- Casimir Pulaski
- Order of the spur
- Charge of the Light Brigade
- Camel cavalry
 External links
- Cavalry tactics from Francis J. Lippitt's, A Treatise on the Tactical Use of the Three Arms - Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry (1865)
- Cavalry in Mass (U.S. report on Russian cavalry organization and operations in World War II)
- Italian Savoia Cavalry during World War 2
- Society of the Military Horse
- Gesellschaft der Freunde der Kavallerie (German)
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