The horsebow was used by Mongols, Huns, Avars, Persians and Byzantines and is the forerunner to the modern recurve bow. It is always relatively compact (many similar bows have been discovered in numerous regions throughout the world) as it was designed to be used from horseback. The rider would tightly grip the horses body with his legs and thus free his hands for using the bow. With a little flexibility it is possible to shoot in at least a 330′ arc around your horse – even directly behind (called the Parthian Shot).
Editors note: We have tried this by sticking a club horsebow owning archer on a vaulting horse and putting him in various orientations on the line. Worked perfectly.
These bows are extremely sophisticated with the bow stave being made up of a laminate of wood, horn and sinew held together with glue created from animal carcasses (even swim bladders in fish!). To get more poundage into such a small frame the bow features the recurve which is a secondary bend of the bow near the tips curving away from the archer (sometimes called sayah). This creates a smaller, faster bow than the longbow. By faster we mean the stored energy is transferred to the arrow (called the ‘cast’) very quickly in comparison to a longbow.
This bow does not need the same range as the longbow because of the horse archers improved mobility over the foot soldier and individual accuracy is more useful in a whirling cavalry melee or while riding in front of massed ranks of infantry than long range massed fire.
In todays competitions within Archery GB, there is (at present) no separate category for traditional style bows of this sort but they can be used in competitive events under the recurve barebow classification. Generally it is frowned upon to utilize sighting or other such aids when using this bow type and the preferred method of shooting relies primarily on instinct. As a result of the entertainment value delivered by these bows, they are often shot for fun by other styles of archers.
Horsebow poundage varies greatly but you will find most are in the 35# to 45# range and shot using woodies (wooden arrows) often with points known as modbods (modern bodkins) – the descendant of the piles used to kill french knights.
For some gorgeously made and pretty damn authentic horsebows, your first stop should be Csaba Grozer‘s website.