What is a Composite Bow (History and Facts)

Ever wonder about the background and history of composite bows? A composite bow is made of layers of different materials like a combination of wood, horn, and sinew that’s been laminated together. This bow is similar to a laminated bow, which is composed entirely of wood layers. Composite Bows have a long history in hunting and everyday life. You may want to check some bow hunting tips we’ve written that might help you soon.


What is a Composite Bow (History and Facts) 1

The Assyrians developed the first composite bow around 1800 BC. They built their civilization on the conquests they were able to achieve with these weapons. Babylonians, Egyptians, and Hittites all adopted their own variants later on. Composite bows were utilized by numerous civilizations, and remnants of the bow have been discovered in different civilizations’ ruins. (1)

The composite bow was invented and successfully used in Japan, Korea, China, and India, as well as all of the Near Eastern countries. It was utilized with terrible results by Great Plains Indian tribes in both battle and hunting in the Americas. The materials utilized in its construction varied according to local resources, with certain Far Eastern tribes preferring water buffalo tendon, while the Dakota Indians preferred snapping turtle neck sinew.

The composite bow was adopted by a staggering range of cultures, from nomadic tribal peoples like the Huns, Turks, and Mongols to strong empires like the Romans, Byzantines, Persians, Arabic tribes, and Chinese. The composite bow, with its tremendous power and portability, was a perfect cavalry weapon, though it was also used by infantry in open battle and as a siege weapon. It was a huge success, and it remained a popular weapon for thousands of years.


What is a Composite Bow (History and Facts) 2

Composite bows are built up of many components that are bonded together using animal glue in V-splices to allow for the bends required by many recurve bows. The most prevalent is the water buffalo horn. Sinew, usually Achilles tendon or back tendons of wild deer, is soaked in glue and put in layers at the back of the bow. The bow was placed in a cool, dry spot after the sinew was attached to allow the glue to harden. The bowyer progressively bends the bow into its final shape after six months or more of drying, adjusting to ensure the limbs pull evenly. Finally, a weatherproof finish of thin leather, bark, or snakeskin is applied.

The accumulated energy is released at a faster velocity via a composite recurve, overcoming the arm’s inherent constraints. Longbows are larger, heavier, and have a slower rate of fire. Composites not only fire faster, but they are also smaller and lighter, making them ideal for horseback archery.

They are given the name recurved because when the bow was strung, the outer limbs of the bow curled away from the archer, providing still another mechanical advantage at the conclusion of the draw.


What is a Composite Bow (History and Facts) 3

There are numerous different sub-types of composite bows, each with its own set of qualities. Sub-types such as recurve, reflex, and horse bows, to name a few, are the most popular. The following is a list and societies throughout history that have used composite bows:

Egyptian Bow

For the ancient Egyptians, the bow was a vital weapon. While traveling in a chariot, the Pharaoh discharged his bow. The Egyptian bow was originally a self-bow (simple bow made from one piece of wood), but a composite version was eventually produced. (2)

Assyrian Bow

The ancient Assyrians developed self-bows, but later on, a powerful composite version was used. With the fire of their long-range arrows, Assyrian archers used their massive compound bows to resist the city wall defenders. In design and structure, the ancient Assyrians used a composite bow that resembled the ancient Egyptian variant.

Scythian Bow

The Scythians developed one of the first composite bows, which were virtually entirely utilized on horseback. Their presence was felt in ancient times from China to the Greek islands. The curves on the Scythian bow make it easy to recognize. Scythian bows were rather short, with a continuous hardwood core from the center to the tip and flexible tips.

Magyar Bow

The Magyar or Hungarian bow is a composite Asiatic bow that is predominantly used on horseback. The bow was attempted to be reconstructed using remains discovered in Hungary’s graveyards.

Mongol Bow

The Mongol bow was a recurved composite bow that was well-known for its military efficacy. It had a bamboo core with layers of horn and sinew on top. Pre-17th century, the Mongol bow was an Asiatic composite bow with a shape comparable to the Avar or Magyar bow.

Japanese Bow (Yumi)

A beautiful and intriguing bow. Its large, asymmetrical limbs make it easy to spot. Yumi is constructed by laminating several pieces of bamboo and wood.

Turkish Bow

Turkish bows were probably the finest traditional flying bows, and they were decorated with gold in multi-colored motifs. The Ottomans’ traditional Turkish bow was based on an earlier understanding of composite bow technology. Turkish bows are among the most effective and attractive composite bows.

Most archery professionals believe that the Ottoman recurved composite bow of the late 1700s and early 1800s was the pinnacle of this weapon’s shape and usefulness. 

We’ve also written an article guides about recurve bow and compound bow that you can read. Until our next article!

(1) Assyrians – https://www.livescience.com/56659-assyrians-history.html
(2) Pharaoh – https://www.britannica.com/topic/pharaoh

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About Andy Ryan

What is a Composite Bow (History and Facts) 4Certifications: Sc. Kin. - Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology
Education: University of Denver
Lives In: Denver

My name is Andy and I am the author and creator of Archery Power, I have been in the archery industry for many years and it’s my true love and passion. I am an instructor and maintain a Certification. It all started as a kid where me and my dad used to go hunting with a crossbow, since that time I have been obsessed with the sport.