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Jinetes skirmish at the Battle of Higueruela, 1431

Jinete is a Spanish word meaning "horseman", but in some cases this is applied to the horse, the rider or both. Originally, it meant a type of light cavalryman, proficient at skirmishing and rapid maneuver.



The word Jinete (of Berber and Arab-Berber zenete or zenetha) designates, in Castilian, Catalan, Basque, Galician and the Provençal dialect of Occitan language, those who show great skill and riding especially if this relates to their work more.

The Zenetha, also Zenete or Zanatas, were a tribe of Berbers during the Middle Ages, that were a rival of the zeneguís. They arose ethnically in Western Sahara, Mauritania, Mali and on the north side of the river Senegal, particularly after the Arab invasion. The invasion would have forced them, among other things, to adopt as part of their tactics the use, of camels with great dexterity. Their skills were enhanced when they were able to mount a horse, especially the kind of agile horse called a light Arabian, the ancestor of the medieval European jennet. This allowed them a prevalence in North Africa and especially in a medieval Spain dominated by the Moors.

Military History

As a military term, jinete (also spelled ginete or genitour) means a Spanish light horseman armed with a javelin, sword and a shield, a troop type developed in the early Middle Ages in response to the massed light cavalry of the Moors.[1] Often fielded in significant numbers by the Spanish, and at times the most numerous of the Spanish mounted troops, they played an important role in Spanish mounted warfare throughout the Reconquista until the sixteenth century. They were to serve successfully in the Italian Wars under Gonzalo de Cordoba and Ramon de Cardona.


Sir Charles Oman describes their tactics thus :

Their tactics were not to close but to hover round their opponents, continually harassing them till they should give ground or break their formation, when a chance would occur of pushing a charge home[2]
The tactics of the genitours were to swarm around the enemy, to overwhelm him with darts, to draw off if he charged in mass, but to hang upon his flanks and charge him when he grew tired, or fell into disorder[3]

In addition, Philippe Contamine records they used the tactic of feigned flight (tourna-fuye).[4]


Jinetes existed in considerable numbers. During the period 1485-9, Castilian armies mustered between 11-13000 jinetes.[5] Some of these were provided by the Military Orders. The Master of Santiago provided 300, while the Master of Calatrava was responsible for a further 450.[6] In May 1493, a number of standing companies were established in Castile called the guardas viejas. These included five captaincies of 100 jinetes.[7] In 1496, the guardas reales of Castile included 130 jinetes.[8] Out of 600 cavalry in the Spanish expeditionary force to Italy in 1495, 500 were jinetes.[9]

Contemporary usage

In Mexico, jinete means "rodeo rider", hence "cowboy".

In Castilian, it is used adjectivally of a rider who knows how to ride a horse, especially those who are fluent or champions at equestrian practices, such as the gaucho, the huaso of the plains, the cowboy, or charro among others.

Appearances in popular culture

In its original Spanish title "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" by Vicente Blasco Ibanez is "Los Cuatro Jinetes del Apocalipsis"

Jinetes appear in Ensemble Studios' Age of Empires III. The game portrays Jinetes as special Portuguese dragoon units armed with rifles.

They also appear in Creative Assembly's Medieval: Total War and Medieval II: Total War as highly effective Spanish and Portuguese mounted skirmishers while existing in Moorish armies as 'Granadine Jinete'.

The Genitour was originally planned to be the Spanish unique unit in Ensemble Studios' Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, in much the same way as in Medieval II: Total War, but was replaced by the musket-armed Conquistador. It now appears only in the scenario editor with a Militia sprite and Cavalry Archer icon.

See also

Lanza Gineta: Spanish Light Cavalry of the Early Italian Wars


  1. Contamine, Philippe (1984). War in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Blackwell. p. 58. ISBN 0631131426. 
  2. Oman, Charles (1991) [1924]. A History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages. Vol.II 1278-1485. London: Greenhill. p. 180. ISBN 1853671053. 
  3. Oman, Charles (1987) [1937]. A History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century. London: Greenhill. p. 51. ISBN 0947898697. 
  4. Contamine (1984), p.58
  5. Contamine (1984), p.135
  6. Contamine (1984), p.163)
  7. Contamine (1984), p. 172
  8. Contamine (1984), p. 167
  9. Oman (1987), p. 52


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