Chinese zhǎn mǎ dāo, one of the swords thought to be the basis for the zanbatō.

Zanbatō (斬馬刀), an especially large, single-edged sword dating to the Heian period of historical Japan. The name zanbatō translates to "horse-slaying sword" or "horse-chopping saber". Original examples came from Song Dynasty China and were employed as anti-cavalry infantry in the same manner.[1]

Chinese zhǎn mǎ dāo

A Chinese anti-cavalry weapon of the Song Dynasty written also as 斬馬刀 (zhǎn mǎ dāo) is of similar proportion to a Zanbatō, although it differs in form. Surviving examples include a sword that might resemble a nagamaki in construction; it had a wrapped handle 37 cm (15 in) long, like the Zanbatō. However, the blade differed, having only a slight curve in the last half, whereas the Zanbatō's curve stretches the length of the blade and handle, similar to a katana.[2]

Zanbatō in modern fiction

The fictional interpretation of the weapon consists of a large, wide blade attached to an extended, pole-like hilt. The sword, and variations of it, are used by many characters in anime and video games. These interpretations often simply depict the weapon as an oversized sword or being imbued with magical properties. However, the weapon which most closely resembles such instances is the eku, or "wooden oar".

A few notable series featuring Zanbatō include


  1. Breverton, Terry (1 October 2013). Breverton's Encyclopedia of Inventions. Quercus. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-62365-234-0.
  2. Jarymowycz, Roman Johann (2008). Cavalry from Hoof to Track. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-275-98726-8.
  3. Fujie, Kazuhisa; Wyman, Walt (January 2006). The Rurouni Kenshin Companion: The Unofficial Guide. DH Publishing Inc. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-932897-11-1.
  4. Koike, Kazuo; Kojima, Goseki; Miller, Frank (2000). Lone Wolf and Cub Vol. 1: The Assassin's Road. Dark Horse. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-56971-502-4.
  5. 1 2 3 Animation, Society for the Promotion of Japanese (1997). Anime reference guide. 4 (1 ed.). Yonin Gümi Inc. and the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-9647158-1-3.
  6. Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones calls the weapon a Zanbatō specifically, while other English games in the series use translations of the term, such as "cavalry sword".
  7. Kawahara, Reki (18 August 2010). Sword Art Online (in Spanish). 1. Clube de Autores. p. 118.
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