Turkish Bow Vs. The Longbow – Which Is Better?

This article covers the topic of the Turkish Bow vs. the Longbow. We are going to discuss the historical background of both bows. How they are made, which bow is stronger. And which one I would recommend for use in modern-day archery?

So, by the time you finish this article, you will have a firm understanding of the main differences between the bows.

Now, let’s do a quick overview of the article explaining the key differences you should be aware of.

As a general rule the main difference between the Longbow and the Turkish Bow are:

  • Size (Longbow 71″, Turkish Bow 40″-45″)
  • The materials from which they are made

That was a short overview of the differences between the Turkish bow and the Longbow. Now, let’s delve deeper into the key differences.

Turkish Bow Vs. The Longbow – Key Differences

The table below gives you a quick reference to all the things we will discuss in detail further down the article.

Difference Between:Turkish BowThe Longbow
Historical Impact:Helped the Turks establish the Ottoman EmpireHelped the British Kingdom dominate the French in the “100 years’ war”
Size:40″ – 45″71″ or longer
Draw Weight:The average was 65 lbs, while it could go much higherBetween 80lbs and 150lbs
How It Is Made:By combining animal horns with wood and then adding sinewIt is cut from a single piece of yew wood or osage orange (in modern times)
Disadvantages:Has a big weakness to humidityVery large and cumbersome to transport compared to smaller bows
A Table Summarizing The Difference Of The Turkish Bow Vs. The Longbow

Now, time to go into detail.

The Historical Impact Of Each Bow

The Turkish bow actually played a major part in the course of world history. The Turks were a nomadic people that migrated from the Asian steps into Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) There they slowly established a kingdom for themselves and through the centuries transformed into the Ottoman Empire.

An Empire that played a critical role in European history. Now, what helped the Ottomans conquer their enemies was their use of the Turkish bow and the horse archery tactics they employed. This enabled them to carve out a kingdom for themselves and then expand that into an empire.

What About The Longbow?

Well, the Longbow was also very important. A little less so than the Turkish bow, but still, its role in history is worth mentioning. The English used the Longbow to great effect in the Medieval battles of the 100 years war such as Agincourt and Crecy.

An average Medieval archer could fire around 6 arrows a minute. So if you imagine 5.000 archers firing their arrows it means 30.000 arrows can be fired in one minute! Often times the English had much more than 5.000 fighting for them.

The Longbow was so important for national defense that the English Kingdom had a law requiring every able body man to be trained in archery.

Now that we discussed the historical impact of each bow, let’s discuss the size difference between the Turkish bow and the Longbow.

Difference In Their Size

Now, this is one of the biggest differences between the Longbow and the Turkish bow. Their size.

The Turkish bow is between 40″ and 45″ in length. On the other hand the Longbow was 71″ in length and longer. While modern-day versions of the Longbow can be shorter, there is no denying the fact that the Longbow is much bigger than the Turkish bow.

So, why are the bows so different when it comes to size?

Well, the reason for that can be traced back to their origin. The Longbow was used primarily for hunting and warfare. Meaning mainly by people on foot. The bow had to send arrows at great distances and inflict damage to the enemy.

That is why the bow is that big. The only way they know how to make a strong bow was to make it bigger. They could not use the composite bow technology like the Turks. You will see why a little later.

What About The Turkish Bow?

The Turkish bow was much smaller because it was originally used on horseback. Remember the nomadic origins of the Turkish people? Well, they were great warriors on horseback. So, if you want to fire a bow from horseback you have to have a small bow.

This gives you greater mobility when firing. You can fire at someone on your left and then quickly shift to firing at someone on your right. So having a smaller weapon came in handy. And despite its size, the Turkish bow carries a big punch. It was able to send arrows up to 400 meters away.

That is all due to its composite nature. We will discuss that a little later.

Now that we discussed their difference in size let’s proceed to their difference in draw weight.

Turkish Bow Vs. The Longbow – Difference in Draw Weights

The Medieval English longbow had an average draw weight of between 80 and 150 pounds. This made the bow extremely powerful for the period, while the Turkish bow has an average draw weight of 65 lbs.

As you can see if we measure the medieval versions of the bows the English Longbow is far more powerful than the Turkish bow. While if we look at the modern-day versions the longbow and the Turkish bow are matched rather evenly in terms of draw weights. It is important to take into account the time period.

If we are talking about the Medieval period. The longbow is far more powerful. While in modern times the bows are comparable.

Since there are reports of Turkish bows being made with 100 lbs of draw weight you can safely assume regardless of the period you could find a Turkish bow that is comparable to the longbow in terms of strength.

But if we are talking about averages? The Longbow was far more powerful than the Turkish bow.

How They Are Made?

The Longbow is made by taking one long piece of yew wood or osage orange, drawing an outline of the bow on it, and then cutting the bow out of the wood. This is very time-consuming since often bowyers let the wood dry for at least a year before continuing.

You can see in greater detail in this video below how a Longbow is made.

How To Make A Longbow

Now for the bowstring back in the day hemp was used. Twisting several strands together did the trick.

How about the Turkish Bow?

The Turkish bow was made by steaming the wood. Meaning they basically let steam be absorbed by the wood. After a few hours, the wood became pliable. And they proceeded to bend the wood into the desired shape.

After that part, they cut buffalo horns and proceeded to glue them to the wood. For glue, they used animal glue, in most cases glue made from fish bladder. After the wood and horns were joined together, animal sinew was added to the back of the bow. This further added strength to the bow without adding to the size of the bow.

And after that, the bow was left to set for at least a year. You can see more in detail about how this process looked by checking out this detailed breakdown of the Turkish Bow here. You also get to see the unique way Turkish Bows were fired.

Disadvantages Of Each Of The Bows

Now let’s take a look at the disadvantages of the Longbow.

It’s too big in my opinion. Its size, while practical in the period in which it was made is wholly impractical in modern-day archery. Yes, it is strong but let’s face it. Do you really need a 100 lb bow? Chances are no, no you do not.

Carrying a lighter composite bow is by far a better option for me. It is powerful enough for modern-day archery. Small enough to be carried comfortably. And does as good of a job as any Longbow out there.

While the size is the Achilles heel of the Longbow humidity is the weakness of the Turkish bow. Given the fact that the Turkish bow is comprised of several layers glued together by animal glue. In excess humidity, glue can dissolve. Hence why the English could not have used a composite bow in England. It’s just too much of a humid place.

The modern versions of Turkish bows can include protective coatings to help in the protection against humidity. But even with that, you should still be careful.

Is The Turkish Bow Good?

Yes, a Turkish bow is one of the best bows in history, because it is extremely powerful without being big and cumbersome.

I recommend a Turkish bow over a Longbow any day of the week. It’s just far superior. It’s even better than the Hungarian bow, as you can see here.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. If you wish you can continue comparing bows from different cultures by taking a look at my article on the Mongol Bow vs. The Turkish bow right here.

Or go here to see my comparison of the Longbow vs. The Compound Bow. You will see which is better and why.

Take care!

Recent Posts