Ever since I was a kid, I had always a keen interest in medieval weapons. Out of all, the bow was by far one of my favorites. Whenever I played strategy games such as Age of Empires, Medieval Total War, archers made the bulk of my army.
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Otherwise if you enjoy some history and want to get some insight into how the Mongolian Recurve Bow is made, introduced to the western world, and how it was used, stay tuned!
INTRODUCTION OF THE RECURVE BOWS IN THE WEST
During 12-13th century, most of medieval Europe used some form of bow for wars. The English was famous especially for their longbows, however, the bow was not the favorite weapon of choice for many kingdoms despite its effectiveness (The Battle of Agincourt). The crossbow and bow were seen as the cowards or the devils tools; chivalry, ransoming, and honor played a role as well.
However in most of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the recurve/composite bows were the weapon of choice since there was 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.
WHAT MAKES THE MONGOLIAN RECURVE BOW UNIQUE?
The main frame comprises of Birch, a ready available type of resource in old Mongolia, and string from dried animal hide. Sometimes for decoration and practical purposes animal horn and bone 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.
Commercial Mongolian recurve bow is usually 120-140 cm in length and 40-90 lbs in poundage. However there are recounts of it being over 150 lbs during Chinggis’ time. The bow itself is compact enough to be wielded on horseback, yet powerful enough to even pierce armour!
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 wet and moist environment so it does require some maintenance.
COMBAT EFFECTIVENESS AND USE
Back in old Mongolian era, everyone had to have an understanding and knowledge of the bow. Boys were required to train consistently and learned from a young age to hunt; even women had to be able 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 armour piercing. Mongols were known to feign retreats and suddenly turn around to ambush the pursuers or deploy hit and run tactics.
HOW FAR CAN THE MONGOLIAN BOW SHOOT?
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 for 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.
IS THE MONGOLIAN RECURVE BOW STILL USED
Absolutely! Besides some of the hobbyist 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.