In August 1914, all combatant armies still retained substantial numbers of cavalry and the mobile nature of the opening battles on both Eastern and Western Fronts provided a number of instances of traditional cavalry actions, though on a smaller and more scattered scale than those of previous wars. The 110 regiments of Imperial German cavalry, while as colourful and traditional as any in peacetime appearance, had adopted a practice of falling back on infantry support when any substantial opposition was encountered. These cautious tactics aroused derision amongst their more conservative French and Russian opponents but proved appropriate to the new nature of warfare.
On the Eastern Front, a more fluid form of warfare arose from flat open terrain favorable to mounted warfare. On the outbreak of war in 1914 the bulk of the Russian cavalry was deployed at full strength in frontier garrisons and, during the period that the main armies were mobilizing, scouting and raiding into East Prussia and Austrian Galicia was undertaken by mounted troops trained to fight with sabre and lance in the traditional style. On 21 August 1914 the 4th Austro-Hungarian Kavalleriedivison fought a major mounted engagement at Jaroslavic with the Russian 10th Cavalry Division, in what was arguably the final historic battle to involve thousands of horsemen on both sides. While this was the last massed cavalry encounter on the Eastern Front, the absence of good roads limited the use of mechanized transport and even the technologically advanced Imperial German Army continued to deploy up to twenty-four horse-mounted divisions in the East, as late as 1917.
In the Middle East, during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign mounted forces (British, Indian, Ottoman, Australian, Arab and New Zealand) retained an important strategic role both as mounted infantry and cavalry.