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About Mongolian Recurve Bows

Ever since I was a kid, I always had a fascination with bows. The skill, dexterity, and speed that are required to shoot one are not easy to master, but the pure badassness of it always captivated me. If you have watched The Lord of The Rings, you probably already guessed that my favorite character was Legolas, an archer elf. Here are some interesting facts about the Mongolian composite recurve bow and why it was one of the deadliest weapons through the Middle Ages.

In most of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the recurve/composite bows were the weapon of choice since there were no “guidelines and rules” for war most of the time, and could be wielded on horseback. It wasn’t until when the Mongols invaded Europe that the Mongolian bow became the talk of the town.

How Mongolian Bow is Made

The mainframe comprises Birch, a readily available type of wood in old Mongolia, and bowstring from dried animal hide. Sometimes for decoration and practical purposes, animal horns and bones were used as well. The body is glued together in layers to give it both flexibility and resilience, and the bow is strung in the opposite direction to give it a powerful flick when arrows are set loose.

The Draw Weight of Mongol Bows

Commercial Mongolian recurve bow is usually 120-140 cm in length and 20-70 lbs in poundage. However, there are recounts of it being over 150 lbs draw weight pull during Chinggis’ time. The bow itself is compact enough to be wielded on horseback, yet powerful enough to pierce armor for a smaller bow! However, it takes a longer time and it is more expensive to make compared to other traditional bows. The Mongolian recurve bow is also prone to damage if kept in a wet and moist environment so it does require some maintenance.

Shooting Distance of Mongol Bow

According to history, skilled archers could shoot more than 400 meters and other accounts of master archers who could shoot arrows more than 500 meters. Zurgudai, AKA Zev, shot Chinggis Khaan from a great distance during the battle of the twelve sides. Chinggis fortunately recovered and wanted to know the archer who shot him after his army won the battle. Zev spoke without fear of his actions, and instead of being executed, his life was spared for his honesty and great skill; he eventually went on to become a loyal general of Chinggis.

Use of The Mongolian Bow

Back in the old Mongolian era, everyone had to have an understanding and knowledge of the Mongol bow. Boys were required to train consistently and learned from a young age to hunt; even women had to be able to defend themselves with it if need be. In battles, it was a devastating weapon when used on horseback. Mongolian soldiers sometimes carried more than one bow and different arrows for different purposes, whistling, flaming, and armor-piercing. Mongols were known to feign retreats and suddenly turn around to ambush the pursuers or deploy hit-and-run tactics.

Do People Still Use The Recurve Bow?

Absolutely! Besides some hobbyists who enjoy shooting composite and recurve bows, people living the nomadic lifestyle in Siberia use it for hunting occasions. However, more significantly, Mongolia still keeps its archery tradition with the Naadam festival, which is held every year.

Traditional Mongolian Bow and Horse Archery

Horse archery has been an integral part of Mongolian culture since the 13th century when it was practiced by Genghis Khan and his troops. The skill allowed them to achieve their remarkable feats of conquering most of Central Asia and creating one of the largest empires in history. Their techniques vary from short-distance quick shots to long-range accurate strikes with remarkable speed and agility. The art form is a source of pride for Mongolians and many learn the skill as part of their heritage while others join competitions to display their prowess as horse archers.

What is The Mongolian Draw?

Mongolian draw archery is a traditional practice that has been used in many parts of the world for centuries. It relies on skill – shooters must use a ‘medieval grip’ to create tension in the middle fingers while keeping their lower two fingers relaxed. This type of grip gives the shooter more accuracy and control when shooting, which is why it has remained such a popular way of shooting in traditional cultures. Even today, as people become increasingly interested in this ancient activity, they often take part in body movements handed down from generations before them.

Mongolian Arrows Used in Warfare

Due to the large composition of horse archers in a Mongol army, each soldier had different arrowheads for their specific role. Some arrows were larger, whereas some were smaller, whilst some arrows made a whistling sound when loosed.

Besides shooting at enemies, Mongolian arrows were used to relay messages, signals, and commands which made the Mongol army that much more fearsome. With a great bow, an archer could relay messages hundreds of meters away.

Can Mongolian Recurve Bows Be Used With Left Hand?

The prominent string bridges of a traditional Mongol bow make them feasible for use with both the right side and left hands; however, the tactile feedback from the string when shot needs to be felt in order for the limb tension to stay constant. In other words, due to the prominent string bridge of a typical Mongol bow, it can be ambidextrously shot with either hand. With some adjustments to the draw length and arrow rest, an archer can switch sides easily if they need or want to do so.

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