The Complete Guide To Persian Bows

This article will show you all of the characteristics of Persian bows and how they were used. So, by the time you finish this article, you will discover why the Persian bow was one of the finest bows in history.

Key facts about the Persian bow are:

  • Persian bow is called a “Kaman”
  • They measure 48,75″
  • They are built by gluing several materials together
  • Fired using 3 different types of anchor points

Or to put it into more words:

As a general rule, Persian bows measure 48.75″. Despite their small size, Persian bows were very powerful, largely due to their composite nature, which is why they were often used on horseback. The Persian bows were drawn using three different anchor points.

In a moment you will see, what a Persian bow is called, and how many years it took to make a proper Persian bow. And 3 different anchor points were used when drawing the Persian bow.

But now, let’s break down the Persian bow in more detail.

The Breakdown Of A Persian Bow

Breakdown of The Persian Bow

A Persian bow is called a “Kaman”. In the above picture, you can see the Persian bow broken down into smaller parts.

According to the “Persian Archery Manuscript written by Kapur Čand,” the standard Persian bow was “thirteen and a half” fists long. This roughly translates into 1.24 meters or 48.75 inches.

The grip or “qabze” was 9.18 cm or 3.67 inches. Roughly a size of one average fist.

The limb was 50.5 cm or 20.19 inches.

The bow ear of a Persian bow was close to 7 cm or 2.8 inches.

All in all the small size of the Persian bow meant it could be used on horseback (which it was quite often) or on foot.

How The Persian Bow Was Made

The Persian bow was made from a wooden mulberry core reinforced in the belly by a pair of horn strips. The horn strips allowed the bow to store much more energy without adding to its size. The back was reinforced by animal sinew. This was glued to the wooden part using animal glue usually made from the fish bladder.

The basic way of building a composite bow has barely changed since the time of the Scythian bow.

But anyways, back to the Persians. They had strict requirements for the materials used in making their bows.

The horn has the be young, and the wood has to come from mulberry, the sinew, and the animal glue should be clean. Bowstrings should be made from silk strands that are straight and there should be no knots or kinks in the string.

The absence of knots or kinks in the bowstring allows for a smoother transfer of power to the arrow.

Persians used 4 different types of bows. And one of these bows took 3 years to make. Since it had three layers of sinew. The first year the first layer of sinew was glued to the bow and left to dry. In the second year, the second layer of sinew was added and left to dry. In the third year, the third layer was added thus completing the bow.

The Persian Arrow – What Was It Made From?

Persian arrows were most often made out of reed. The advantage of using reed for arrow shafts is in their high strength-to-weight ratio. Reed is easily grown throughout the Middle East and due to its lightness is easily transported.

A disadvantage of using reed as a material for arrow shafts is the difficulty in gluing anything to its shiny surface area. But the Persians made it work anyways with the help of animal sinew.

As fletching, they used vulture feathers.

The Different Types of Persian Arrows

  1. Arrowhead with 4 edges. The arrowhead is three fingers long. And is hardened along its length.
  2. Čāl arrow. This arrowhead is trilobed. It was used for hunting and shooting at armor.
  3. Čandratiyan arrow. It was a crescent shaped arrowhead, used to shootdown fruits from trees or shooting at snakes heads or to cut the enemys bowstring.

How Were Persian Bows Used?

Persian bows were used by soldiers on horseback and on foot. The small size of Persian bows made them ideal for horse archers. As you can see here horse archers were extremely effective troops on the battlefield.

How To Shoot Persian Bows in 7 Easy Steps

  1. Stand before the target
  2. Grasp the bow
  3. Attach the arrow to the bowstring
  4. Lock the thumb around the bowstring
  5. Draw the arrow back to full draw
  6. Aim
  7. Release the arrow

The 3 Types Of Anchor Points When Using Persian Bows

Persian archers used 3 different anchor points when drawing their bows.

  • Sormekesh (eyebrow draw), this is where the archer draws his fingers on the bowstring towards his eyebrows. If you compare this to modern Archery is a really high anchor point.
The eyebrow draw
  • The second anchor point used by Persian Archers is the Sinekesh. Or the chest draw. The archer pulled the bowstring towards his chest. This was a widely inaccurate way of shooting. So it was either used at longer distances with volley fire or at very close quarters where accuracy was not an issue.
The chest draw
  • The third way of drawing the bow is the “Borutkesh” or the mustache draw. This is where the archer pulls the bowstring towards his upper lip or mustache. The mustache draw resembles the most to the anchor point used by modern-day Archers. And this draw is recommended to be used according to the Persian Archery Manual.
The mustache draw

If you take a closer look at the picture above you can see that the Persian bow was fired in a different way.

The Thumb Draw

The thumb draw is a technique to draw the bow using the thumb, index, and middle finger of the archer’s dominant hand. The Persian Archers used this technique to shoot their bows.

Thumb draw is best suited to be used when firing from a horse, which is why it was most popular in the Middle East and Asia where horse archery was most prevalent.

To protect the thumbs they used to fire their Persian bows the archers used thumb rings.

These protective devices were made from 4 main materials:

  • Gold
  • Patterned Crucible Steel
  • Walrus Ivory (with no spots)
  • Made from horn either white or black
Persian thumb rings

The Requirements To Be An Effective Archer

Archers in Persia were very valuable. And according to the Persian Archery Manuscript, there are 10 requirements to be an effective archer.

  1. Have a pure heart
  2. Thankful to your master
  3. Without greed and lead a pure life
  4. Keep your promises
  5. Be in good mood and stand tall
  6. Follow the principles of chivalry
  7. Have an open chest and wide shoulders
  8. Should not be an oppressor and insult people
  9. Should not be lazy and be obedient
  10. Be frugal and have long arms

The 10 commandments were first written in the Islamic period of Persia in the Middle Ages. It is not clear if such commandments that dictated morals existed before. It is known that similar commandments existed in Chinese Archery manuals in the early Middle Ages.

In Conclusion

Persian bows are exemplary pieces of bow technology. Similar in design to the Turkish bows which were also used on horseback.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Hopefully, you learned something new here.

And if you wish, you can take a look at this article where I discuss how the Turkish bow was made and used.

You can travel to the other side of the world and discover everything we know about the Comanche bow.

Take care

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