This article covers the Iroquois bow and arrow. You will see what they looked like, what they were made of. And just as importantly how many types of Iroquois bows there were.
Here are the key facts about the Iroquois bow according to the curator of the Iroquois museum in the United States:
- The Iroquois bow was made from hickory wood
- They were up to 39 inches in length
- The draw weight of Iroquois bow was between 65lbs and 90 lbs
Or to put it into more words:
The Iroquois bow was made most often from hickory wood. Iroquois bows used for warfare were up to 39 inches in length with a draw weight of up to 90 lbs, while the hunting bows had a draw weight of up to 65 lbs. Iroquois arrows were between 20 and 24 inches in length. They had iron, steel, or copper arrowheads. There are several different versions of the Iroquois bow, as you will see in a moment.
This was a short description of the Iroquois bow and arrow. There are several variations, you will see why in just a moment.
If you just want to see the dimension and types of bows out there feel free to skip the first section. This section covers a little backstory on the “Iroquois” and the common misconception that it is just one tribe.
The fact that there are many tribes that fall under the umbrella term “Iroquois” means there are several types of bows that also fall under the term. Hence why there are several types of bows.
The Backstory Of The Term “Iroquois”
The term Iroquois originates from french colonists. They named an alliance of six Native American tribes called the Haudenosaunee the Iroquois League or Iroquois confederacy. The name stuck in western media even though the Native Americans themselves did not want to be associated with it.
So, which tribes made up the Iroquois confederacy? Let’s list the tribes that made up the Iroquois confederacy.
The Haudenosaunee or the Iroquois Confederacy consisted of six tribes:
- Tuscarora (they joined later in the 18th century)
So, this is a short backstory as to why you will be seeing somewhat different bows. But rest assured they all fall under the umbrella term Iroquois bow.
Now, let’s proceed to the actual bows.
The Cayuga Bow And Arrow
The Cayuga bow was 55 and a half inches in length. It was made from hickory, and it had an asymmetrical upper tip, as you can see in the picture above. This type of Iroquois bow is definitely less flashy than the following ones.
They had arrows with a length of 35″. I find this to be weird because these arrows are definitely among the longest Ive seen. They were also fletched with 2 turkey feathers.
Onondaga bow is definitely among the longest ones. It is 69 and three-quarters of an inch in length. It is a sleek-looking bow with a bow handle width of 1 and four-fifths of an inch. And the bow tip that is seven-eights of an inch wide.
As you can see, it is a stylish bow. It had red and blue symbols drawn on the back of the bow.
The Mohawk Bow
The Mohawk bow was 53 and a half inches in length, with the bow handle three-quarters of an inch wide bow handle. The bow tips were just seven-eights of an inch wide. A very slim-looking bow, made entirely from hickory, with a bowstring made from plant fiber.
The Seneca Bow
The Seneca bow was up to 61 inches in length. Bow tips were three-quarters of an inch wide while the bow handle could range from an inch all the way to an inch and one eighth in width. The bow itself had a three-ply sinew string.
The arrows from the Seneca tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy had a nifty trick with their arrows. They placed their fletching on the arrow shaft at an angle. This made the arrow spin in flight which in turn helped with the accuracy.
The Oneida Bow
The Oneida bow was made from hickory. Its length was between 47 and 58 inches in length. It had an asymmetrical upper bow limb. The bow handle was one and a quarter-inch wide, with the bow tips at seven-eights of an inch wide.
It had a four-ply bowstring made from rawhide. Compared to the other bows, it is quite plain-looking.
Their arrows were up to 28 and a half inches long, made from split-hickory shafts with steel points at the end.
The Tuscarora Bow
The Tuscarora bow was made from hickory. It had a length of up to 61 and a half inches. Their bowstring was made from rolled rawhide string.
Alongside these types of bows, they had arrows that were 27 and a half to thirty inches in length. Their arrows had iron or copper arrowheads and fletchings that were made by using buzzard tail feathers. What set them apart from other Iroquois arrows is that the arrowhead and fletchings were attached not by animal sinew but with the help of natural plant fiber.
What Did The Iroquois Use For Bowstrings?
I consulted with a curator at the Iroquois museum regarding this. And according to them:
“Sinew would have been the primary material used for bow string. It had the disadvantage of changing tension with the weather so occasionally dogbane (a kind of milkweed native to here) and hemp (also native) was used as it could be better in more versatile (cold, wet, dry) conditions…”Curator at the Iroquois museum in the U.S.
How Were These Bows Fired And What Were They Used?
As you can see in my article on the History of Native American Archery the Native tribes used their bows for two primary purposes. War, and hunting. The Iroquois alliance was no different. Their primary purpose was for hunting wildlife.
With the Iroquois, their hunting bows were said to have been twice the size of the arrow plus the length of the hand. While the bows used for warfare were smaller.
How Were They Used?
The Iroquois natives were instinctive shooters. They did not use a set anchor point on their face like modern archers. They shot by pulling the bowstring towards their rib cage. And releasing. You might think this was a difficult way to aim. But, you would be mistaken.
They practiced hitting targets like this since childhood. Which means they had years of practice before they went out to hunt or go to war.
One Small Detail To Adress – Iroquois Arrowheads
As you can see in the above descriptions, they used iron, steel, and even copper arrowheads. This was done by certain tribes that came into contact with colonizers and even traded with them. Before they came into contact with the colonies they did use flint arrowheads, like the majority of native tribes.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Hopefully, you learned something new. If you wish you can continue reading about Native American Archery by checking out my article on the Sioux bow and arrow by clicking here.
Or take a look at my article on the Choctaw bow and arrow by going here.
See you at the next one.