Turkish Bow Vs. Hungarian Bow – What Is The Difference?


This article covers the topic of Turkish bow vs. Hungarian bow. You will see the key differences between the bows and how they are similar. So, by the end of this article, you will also know for a fact which bow is better.

Before we start with the detailed breakdown of the differences between the bows, let’s take a look at a short summary of the entire article. So, you know which aspects we will go into detail a little later on.

The Turkish bow is 40″ to 45″ long while the Magyar bow averages 55″ in length. Despite their size differences, the Turkish and the Hungarian bows are composite bows. The Turkish bow averages around 65 lbs of draw weight while the Hungarian bow has an average draw weight of 75 lbs. In comparison, the Turkish bow comes out slightly better because of the “siper”, as you will see in a moment.

With that summary taking care of the broad picture. Let’s go deeper into the topic of Turkish bow vs. Hungarian bow. We will take a look at their size, power, and how they are made. The role in history they played and of course why the “siper” makes the Turkish bow far better than the Hungarian or Magyar bow.

Turkish Bow Vs. Hungarian Bow – Breakdown Of The Differences

Differences Between:Turkish BowHungarian/Magyar Bow
Historical ImpactHelped establish the Ottoman EmpireHelped the Huns and the Magyars inflict damage on their enemy and raid the surrounding kingdoms
Size & Power40-45 inches – 65lbs draw weight55″ – 75 lbs of draw weight
What They Are Made OfWood, horn, animal glue, and sinewWood, horn, animal glue and sinew
How They Were UsedMostly on horseback, using the thumb draw techniqueMostly on horseback as well using the thumb draw technique
Turkish Vs. Hungarian Bow – Table showing the difference between the bows

This should give you a clear overview of what we will discuss here. Now, let’s go through each section in detail.

Turkish Bow Vs. Hungarian Bow – The Historical Impact

Ottoman vs. Magyar Horse Archers

If we judge both bows based on their impact on history, the Turkish bow is a clear winner. The Turkish bow helped the Turkic nomads conquer a small Sultanate in Anatolia for themselves. And from there they conquered their neighbors and created the Ottoman Empire.

One of the most important Empires in world history. The effects of the creation of that empire can clearly be felt to this day. Since some historians speculate that the renaissance era was kickstarted by the refugees Byzantine Empire that came to Italy after the fall of Constantinople.

But when it comes to the Hungarian or what is also referred to as the Magyar bow, that effect is somewhat localized. It enabled the Magyars or the Hungarians to launch effective raids into the surrounding kingdoms in the early Middle Ages.

Not precisely a history-changing experience like the Turkish bow. But it’s a bow that helped establish the early Hungarian Kingdom.

Now let’s proceed to the size and strength difference between the bows.

Size And Strength Of The Turkish Bow Vs. The Hungarian Bow

So how big and strong was the average Hungarian bow?

Hungarian Bow

The average Hungarian bow is 55″ (140cm) to 60″ (152,4cm) in length, with an average draw weight of 75 lbs. Hungarian bows tended to be rather small compared to other contemporary European bows due to their composite nature. And because they were mostly used on horseback.

We will touch on that a little later. Suffice it to say, for its small size it packed a big punch. And judging by medieval reports it had a huge range comparable to medieval longbows.

How About The Turkish Bow?

Turkish Bow – Unstrung

The Turkish bows are even smaller. With average Turkish bows ranging between 40″ and 45″, they are much smaller than the Hungarian bows. But even so, with their composite nature, they are able to reach distances that are comparable to the Hungarian bows.

The Ottoman archers practiced their archery skills at distances from 90m to 265m. But an average Turkish bow in the hands of an experienced archer could easily send an arrow more than 400 yards away.

There have been reports that Ottoman archers could easily send arrows more than 800 yards away. This is wholly impractical on the battlefield since arrows at these distances lack the piercing power necessary to pierce armor.

While the Turkish bow is smaller, it is as powerful if not more than the standard Hungarian bow. To see a more detailed breakdown of the Turkish bow, feel free to check this article on the Turkish bow, its history, and a detailed explanation of how it is made.

What Were These Bows Made Of?

Both the Hungarian and the Turkish bows are considered Composite bows. This means several materials were glued together using glue to add strength to the bow without increasing its size very much.

So, let’s begin with the Turkish bow. What was the Turkish bow made of?

The Turkish bow was made of buffalo horns, wood, Achilles tendons (sinew), and fish glue. The wood was exposed to steam for several hours. As the wood absorbed the humidity it became more flexible. It was bent into the desired shape and held in place for several hours in order for the wood to set properly.

After that strips of animal horn were glued to the wood and pressed together. When the glue was dried then they attached the sinew on the back down the entire length of the bow.

The bow-making process is now complete. All they did from here on is to wait for a year or even more before handing the bow to the archer. Here you have a short visual demonstration of the bowmaking process. Just go to the 2:55 mark in the video and you will see how the bow is made.

Now let’s proceed to the Hungarian bow. What it was made of and how it was made.

How Was The Hungarian Bow Made?

The Magyar or the Hungarian bow was made of 5 materials:

  • Softwood (ash or maple)
  • Fish-glue (called “haleny” in their language)
  • Sinew
  • Horn
  • Bone

Much like with the Turkish bow, the bow-making process begins by applying steam to the wood for several hours. After this process, the wood was bent into the desired shape opposite to the direction in which it would eventually be drawn.

The next step is to add the sinew on the back of the bow with the help of the fish glue. This helped add springiness to the bow and allowed it to be drawn further back and with greater ease than let’s say a self-bow.

On the belly of the bow, the horn was added. When it comes to horns they likely used ones from the ancestors of the Hungarian longhorn “grey” cattle. As with the sinew it was glued to the wood frame of the bow and allowed to dry/set.

The addition of both sinew and horns allowed the bow to be powerful enough to send arrows a few hundred meters away but not large enough to be hard to shoot from horseback.

What made the Hungarian bow stand out from other composite bows such as the Turkish one is the addition of bones. Yes, six pieces of bones were added.

According to the report you can find here:

“These were normally 2 to 4 millimetres thick and up to 30 centimetres (circa. one foot) long. They were glued to the wood core at right angles to the sinew and horn layers. Two were used to cover the so-called “horn” of the bow, two for the grip, and two for the other “horn” or end of the bow. The outer-side of these bone pieces was normally smooth, while the side to be glued to the wood is known to have been scratched rough, to help it stick.”

A BRIEF HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF HUNGARIAN ARCHERY, PART I
by Chris Szabó

Now, let’s proceed to how both of these bows were used.

How Were They Used -Turkish Bow Vs. Hungarian Bow

Both bows were used in a strikingly similar fashion. Largely on horseback. The bows were light, small, and powerful enough to send arrows at effective ranges of 90 meters at least (as was the case with Turkish bows). This made it perfect on horseback.

An archer could fire arrows from horseback and move away before enemy arrows reached them. You can see the tactics they used in this article “Genius Tactics Used By Horse Archers” it explains their tactics in detail and why they were so effective.

Alongside the tactics, both the Turks and the Magyars or Hungarians used the thumb draw. This meant they used the thumb, index, and middle fingers to draw their bows.

This way of drawing the bow allowed them to easily shift their bow from side to side of the horse and all in all, allowing for greater control over the bow and arrow when firing from a horse.

So, Which Bow Is Better, The Turkish Or The Hungarian One?

All in all, I would rather use the Turkish bow than the Hungarian one. But why do I say that since they are both composite bows of similar power?

Well, the “sipar”. It’s a forearm “device” or platform that allows the archer to fire a smaller arrow from his bow. So, let’s imagine the Archer usually fires an arrow that’s 30″, if he happens to get fired upon with smaller arrows from the enemy or even crossbow darts he can pick them up and fire them back at the enemy.

It’s an ingenious device that allows the archer to use the enemy projectiles against them. The Hungarians or the Magyars never had that.

So, on that basis alone, I judge the Turkish bow to be better than the Hungarian bow.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Hopefully, you learned a thing or two. And if you wish you can continue reading by taking a look at this article on the Turkish bow vs. the Longbow, where you can compare the Turkish bow with one of the most famous bows in all of history.

Take care

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