A Complete Guide On The Apache Bow And Arrow

This is an article on the Apache bow and arrow. We will discuss everything from what the Apache bow and arrow were made from. And how the Apache bow and arrow were used and what they were used for.

Here is a brief explanation of the Apache bow if you are in a hurry.

3 Key facts about the Apache bow:

  • they were up to 44 inches in length
  • they were made from osage orange, oakwood, or whitewood
  • the belly of the bow was an inch and a half in width with the tips being half an inch in width

Or to put it in paragraph form:

The Apache used several different bows, as you will see in a moment. The standard ones were short selfbows up to 44 inches in length. They were made from Osage Orange, Oakwood, or Whitewood. A standard Apache bow was relatively narrow with the bow tips being just half an inch in width and the belly 1 and a half inches in width. The back of the bow was painted black, for decorative purposes and the bowstring was made of sinew.

As you can see, this was a short explanation. Now let’s proceed to more detail.

An Important Backstory – Before You Continue

The Apache is a term that describes a group of tribes that share the same culture. Names of these tribes are Chiricahua, Lipan, Jicarilla, and Mescalero. Each individual tribe employed distinct bow-making technology.

Here you will see several bows employed by the tribes you saw above. Given that each of the above tribes falls in the larger category of Apache Nation, each bow you will about to see is classified as an Apache bow.

So, this is the context you should be keeping in mind. And is the main reason why Apache bows look different. As opposed to the Comanche bow which was pretty much one standardized version, with the main difference being the draw weight.

Breakdown Of The Standard Apache Bow

Drawing of an Apache bow

This was the typical Apache bow. The Apache bow was 44″ in length. The bow tips were 1/2″ in width while the belly was 1 and a half inches in width. The bow was made from osage orange wood or oakwood. As you can see in my article on Native American Archery, the Osage Orange was very popular among Native Americans for bow-making.

The Apache bow was painted on the back with black color.

Apache bow

The Apache did this a lot with their bows and arrows. They put markings or just flat out painted it in either black or red.

The Apache Jicarilla Bow

Jicarilla bow

Above you have an unstrung Apache bow from the Jicarilla tribe. As you can the standard length of 44 inches still applies. This one was made from oakwood. The belly of the bow was painted red.

The grip and the bow tips were wrapped in backstrap sinew.

Highly Reflexed Double Curved Apache Bow

Apache bow with dimensions

This bow is very different from the other Apache bows but mostly just in appearance. As you can see it’s much more curved than the other ones. It is made from whitewood and backed with sinew on the tips and handle for added elasticity and power.

It is just over 44 inches in length. The bow tips are 5/8″ in width. While the bow grip is 1.2 inches in width. The rarity of this bow is that it does not use the standard paint scheme of the other Apache bows. This one is painted green.

The sides of the bow have a dark-green zig-zag pattern.

Apache Bow Made From Whitewood

Whitewood Apache bow

As you can guess by the title. This one was made from Whitewood. It was a bit larger just over 45 inches in length. The belly was painted red. While the back was painted green and the sides were painted red.

This Apache bow, while being longer than the rest was also narrower. The grip was just 7/8″, while the tips were half an inch in width. As with the other Apache bows, bowstrings were made from animal sinew. Either deer or buffalo.

The Surprising Thing About Apache Archery Is That …

They used armguards. I always considered them a relatively modern invention, at least one that originated in Europe. Looks like I was wrong.

Apache armguard

They used leather armguards, to protect themselves from string slaps. I just found this so cool I wanted to share it.

Apache Arrows

Apache arrows ranged from 29 ΒΌ inches in length all the way to 33 inches. The arrow shafts were made from phragmites cane into which they inserted a hardwood foreshaft. 3 Feathers from hawks and sometimes turkeys were used as fletching for the arrows.

Apache arrow

These were attached mostly with animal sinew. The Apache arrowheads were made using rocks such as white chert and later even steel arrowheads were employed.

The stone arrowheads were attached to the arrow using animal sinew, and in some cases, melted pitch was used to attach the arrowhead before wrapping it around in sinew.

When it comes to arrows, they were mostly standardized across the Apache tribes. The main difference I have seen was in the length. 29 to 33 inches.

But they all employed a standard paint scheme of black and red which was so popular among the Apache.

While they did use stone arrowheads like many of the native tribes they started also using steel points when they started trading with the American settlers.

Apache Quivers

Apache quivers were 24″ to 35″ in length. They were made from brain-tanned buckskin and cloth. There is a record of the Chiricahua Apache having made their quiver from rawhide.

How The Apache Bow And Arrow Were Used

In essence, in much the same way as with the rest of the Native Americans on the continent. Mostly for hunting and occasional warfare.

As you can see in the short 2:03 video below a replica of an Apache sinew-backed bow can have a draw weight of up to 54lbs. Which means it could fire a normal arrow at a respectable distance.

Shooting the Apache bow

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article on the Apache Bow and Arrow. Hopefully, you learned something new and gained some appreciation for the wonderful craftsmanship that went into making the Apache bow and arrow.

Feel free to keep learning about Native American archery by reading about the Cherokee bow and Arrows if you click here.

I highly recommend taking a look at the books on Native American Bows by clicking here. It will take you to Amazon where you can choose from a list of books on this topic.

Or take a look at the Native American Archery article I did if you wish to continue learning for free.

Take care

Recent Posts