Zulu Warfare

The Zulus, mostly under the leadership of Shaka, transformed their military. The principle change was the adoption of shock tactics.


Shaka Zulu initiated a series of military reforms. His revolution started with a simple tool – the assegai spear. It was longer than a javelin and had an iron tip. Metal increased in use during this period, so the Zulus started to use iron.
The assegai spear required that the Zulu men rapidly close with their enemies and fight in close combat. The Zulus abandoned traditional sandals and ran barefoot to increase their speed. They used their hide shields to protect them from enemy javelins during the charge. Zulus would run directly at the enemy soldiers and stab them in the stomach to disembowel them. He introduced (and perhaps invented) the bull horn formation Many historians say Shaka Zulu was the first military leader to use the bull horn formation. This is a three‑part attack system in which seasoned warriors form the “chest” of the horn at the front, pinning the enemy into a position where it can be easily attacked. Younger warriors would form the “horns” and encircle the enemy, attacking from the sides, and additional warriors formed the “loins,” standing behind the “chest” with their back to the battle, protecting against any additional attackers.

Shaka invented the short, large bladed iXhwa spear, so named from the sound it made when being withdrawn from the body of an opponent. He also turned the shield into an offensive weapon. Warriors were taught to catch their shield behind that of their opponents and thrust it out of the way, exposing the warrior's body.
He accustomed his troops to war conditions Some historians say that Shaka Zulu would make his troops go on 50‑mile marches for practice over rough and hot terrain so they wouldn’t be fazed by difficult conditions during battle.

He started apprenticeships Children over age 6 would became apprentice warriors, delivering rations, cooking supplies and weapons to real warriors. By the time children came of age, they were accustomed to being in battle surroundings and were more emotionally ready to fight.

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