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Hungary’s rich tradition of hussar culture

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A symbol of Hungary is its elegantly garbed hussars, light cavalrymen whose history dates back six centuries. Brilliantly combining derring-do, elegance, fervour and courage, hussars were adopted by regiments worldwide. Their tradition, culture and heroic deeds are still celebrated here, presented at ceremonies on public holidays and at equestrian events. 

Back in the 14th century, Hungarian politician and military man János Hunyadi created the country’s first mounted units, inspired by the Ottomans. The hussar regiments became prominent under the reign of his son, Matthias Corvinus, who developed them into large-scale formations for the so-called Black Army of Hungary.


Hussars then played a significant role in the bitter Thirty Years’ War fought in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. During the 1700s, Hungarian cavalry officer Michael Kovats de Fabriczy helped training hussar regiments for the American Army, when George Washington served as Commander-in-Chief.


By then, the Hungarian hussars were famed worldwide for their virtuosity with weaponry. These distinctly mounted horsemen were hired by the Habsburg emperors to serve against the Ottomans across European battlefields. Hungarian hussars abandoned shields and armour to become entirely light cavalrymen, epitomising how victory could be achieved against mighty troops through skill and guile.


Hussar regiments were formed in France, Poland, Britain and South America, where their roles are now mainly ceremonial. Their colourful military uniforms are inspired by historic Hungarian design comprising gold braids, an ornate hat and high riding boots.

Hungary actively preserves its hussar culture and presents this rich tradition in many ways. The Hungarian Hussar and Military Heritage Federation plays a significant role in state-run events, anniversaries and wreath-laying. The National Equestrian Squadron provides ceremonial patrol services on public holidays.


On March 15th, when Hungary commemorates the Hungarian Revolution against the Austrian Empire, the Museum of Military History (Hadtörténeti Múzeum) in Budapest demonstrates hussar tradition with special exhibitions, swordplay and workshops.


The annual National Gallop (Nemzeti Vágta) showcases ornately uniformed horseman in fast-paced action when Hungary’s young jockeys compete for national glory on Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere), transformed into a scenic racecourse for one weekend in September.


The Hungarian hussar traditions can also be traced beyond Budapest. In the west Hungarian city of Sárvár, the Hussar Museum features the evolution of weaponry and uniforms used by these members of the light cavalry.


While Hungary revamps its racecourses to celebrate the nation’s equestrian culture, two major attractions have opened in the countryside. In Pákozd near Székesfehérvár, a gigantic statue has been created to honour hussar tradition. In addition, recently reopened Hirling József Lovaspark in Kiskunhalas near Szeged was unveiled by hussars taking part in its launch ceremony.