Here we will discuss the origins, composition, and use of Mongol bows in the past and in modern times.
Now, before we begin, let’s look at what exactly is a Mongolian bow. Here is the main takeaway from the entire article.
The Mongolian bow is a small composite bow made from wood, animal sinew, horns, and silk. It measures between 120 cm and 125 cm. Despite their small size, the stronger bows had an effective range of up to 300 yards, with draw weights of up to 150lbs.
Let’s get into more detail here. Let’s break down the bow in detail and its effect on history and how and why it was eventually replaced.
What Is A Mongol Bow?
The Mongol bow is a composite bow originating in the steps of Asia. While most eastern cultures have a tradition of building composite bows for thousands of years as you can see here. The main appeal of the Mongol bow comes from:
- Its poundage and effectiveness
- Its effect on human history
What Poundage Was The Mongolian Bow?
The Mongolian bow from the times of Ghenghis Khan is said to have a draw weight of up to 150 pounds. This enabled the archers to propel their arrows up to 300 yards. Modern-day Mongolian bows have a more reasonable draw weight of between 40lbs and 90lbs.
The secret of the Mongolian bow comes from its limbs. These are more able to store energy than other bows. So while the Mongolian bows are small, only 120 cm they are able to propel arrows at great distances. According to the information I gathered from the Museum of Archery in Valois France the range of Mongol bows is 300 meters and this is due to the ability of the bow to store energy effectively and transfer it to the arrow.
We will get into more detail a little later on that.
Its Effect On Human History
The Mongolian bow had a great PR campaign back in the day. In the form of ravaging hordes of Mongolians on horseback that created one of the largest empires in history with the help of the Mongolian bow.
Are You Curious? To see an article on what ingenious tactics the Mongols used to beat their enemies into submission, just click here. It will open another tab with the article so you can read it after you finish this article.
It’s no exaggeration to say the Mongols had a great effect on the history of human civilization.
So, combined with the effectiveness of the bow and its very effect on human history makes the Mongolian bow a popular choice for those interested in Asiatic archery to this day.
It was one of the most powerful weapons used by armies before the introduction of gunpowder weapons.
Are You Curious! Do you know why did the early gunpowder weapons replace the bow and arrow despite being worse weapons? Discover the reason here. It will open another tab with the article so you can read it after you finish this article.
Now, let us take a look at what made the Mongolian bow so powerful. Its composition.
What Is A Mongolian Bow Made Off?
The Mongolian bow was made of wood, animal sinew, fish glue, and horn. For the bowstring the Mongols used silk.
As I said, the power of the Mongol bow came from its composite nature. This means, that many layers were combined together to produce a small bow able to propel arrows at great distances.
The whole makeup of the bow is quite ingenious. Check this out.
The sinew was placed on the bow because it allows for more energy to be stored in the bow’s limbs. Since sinew is more elastic than wood. In short: Sinew is added to the Mongolian bow because it allows the archer to fire the arrow at greater distances.
The wood used was mainly there to provide the shape of the bow. In some cases, even bamboo was used but that was a rarity.
Horn was placed in the middle of the bow or the “belly of the bow” (the side facing) the archer. The main purpose of the horn was to compress when the archers pulls the bow back and store extra energy. So both sinews and horns were added to Mongolian bows with the sole purpose of storing more energy.
All of the materials were glued together using animal glue. This animal glue was normally made of fish bladders.
In the 18th century, the traditional Mongol bow was displaced by a slightly larger bow from the Chinese region of Manchuria. Hence its name the “Manchu Bow”.
The Mongols used arrowheads made of iron. They had little need to use hard steel-tipped arrowheads since their tactics relied on volume and movement and often fought enemies with little to no real armor.
What Are The Modern Mongol Bows Made Of?
Modern Mongolian composite bows are made in a similar fashion as their medieval counterparts. Wood, sinew, and horn are glued together to make a small bow with big draw weight. In modern times, at least animal glue is not used.
Other than epoxy resin being used as glue, the usual composition still applies. Wood is glued together with horn and animal sinew to produce the maximum possible energy storage. The modern-day ones are a little larger than their medieval counterparts and tend to have lower draw weight.
This makes sense since the average archer can not draw a 100-pound bow.
By clicking here you will be taken to Amazon where you can see what these modern bows go for these days.
Now, before you go buying yourself a Mongolian bow there are some things you should keep in mind.
The Weakness Of Mongolian Bows
Its water. The glue that holds the different parts of the bow together does not react well to rain. If the glue on the bow dissolves it ruins the bow.
This holds true for all composite bows. It’s one of the reasons why composite bows were mainly used by civilizations in dry and arid places.
It goes without saying that any self-respecting archer will take good care of their bow when they are not using it. But be extra careful if you are using a composite bow and keep it dry as well. Historically the Mongols kept their bows in leather pouches when they were not using them.
Something you should replicate!
Is The Mongol Bow Useful For Modern Archers?
Yes. Absolutely. Its small, durable, and able to propel arrows at good distances. The main thing is to keep it dry. If you are able to do that you should have a bow that will last you for a long time.
One key distinction though!
Mongol bows, or in fact all of the Asiatic bows are usually fired with the thumb draw. This means if you have been shooting using the Mediterranean draw then this is something you should practice.
The thumb draw is an Asiatic way of firing arrows by using solely your thumb and index finger of your dominant hand. It’s a different way of firing for many reasons, you can check them all out here, by clicking the link you will visit an article I wrote where you can see the detailed breakdown of the thumb draw.
It looks like this.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article and if you want to take a look at another composite bow I suggest you take a look at this article on the Turkish bow and why I think it might be even better than the Mongol one. Just click the link above and it will take you to the article immediately.