Entirely metal scabbards became popular in Europe early in the 19th century and eventually superseded most other types. Metal was more durable than leather and could better withstand the rigors of field use, particularly among troops mounted on horseback. In addition, metal offered the ability to present a more military appearance, as well as the opportunity to display increased ornamentation. Nevertheless, leather scabbards never entirely lost favor among military users and were widely used as late as the American Civil War (1861-65).
Some military police forces, naval shore patrols, law enforcement and other groups used leather scabbards as a kind of truncheon.
Back scabbards were never used in European, Near East, or Indian military cultures, and depictions of such are a modern invention and have enjoyed great popularity in fiction and fantasy, to the point that they are widely believed to be a Medieval invention. Some well-known examples of this include the back scabbard depicted in the movie Braveheart and the back scabbard seen in the video game series The Legend of Zelda. There is some limited data from woodcuts and textual fragments that Mongol light horse archers and some Chinese soldiers wore a slung baldric over the shoulder, allowing longer blades to be strapped across the back.
However in "The Ancient Celts" by Barry Cunliffe, on page 94 of that book, Professor Cunliffe writes,"All these pieces of equipment, mentioned in the texts, are reflected in the archaeological record and in the surviving iconography, though it is sometimes possible to detect regional variations. Among the Parisii of Yorkshire, for example, the sword was sometimes worn across the back and therefore had to be drawn over the shoulder from behind the head."
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