Longbow
Overview
 
A longbow is a type of bow that is tall (roughly equal to the height of the person who uses it); this will allow its user a fairly long draw, at least to the jaw.
A longbow is not significantly recurved. Its limbs are relatively narrow so that they are circular or D-shaped in cross section. Flatbow
Flatbow
A flatbow is a bow with non-recurved, flat, relatively wide limbs that are approximately rectangular in cross-section. Because the limbs are relatively wide, flatbows will usually narrow and become deeper at the handle, with a rounded, non-bending, handle for easier grip...

s can be just as long; the difference is that, in cross-section, a flatbow has limbs that are approximately rectangular.

The longbow is based on the late medieval English longbow
English longbow
The English longbow, also called the Welsh longbow, is a powerful type of medieval longbow about 6 ft long used by the English and Welsh for hunting and as a weapon in medieval warfare...

 in use during the 12th to 16th centuries.
The historical longbow was a self bow
Self bow
A self bow is a bow made from a single piece of wood. Extra material such as horn nocks on the ends, or built-up handles, would normally be accepted as part of a self bow...

, often made from yew
Taxus baccata
Taxus baccata is a conifer native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia. It is the tree originally known as yew, though with other related trees becoming known, it may be now known as the English yew, or European yew.-Description:It is a small-...

.
Encyclopedia
A longbow is a type of bow that is tall (roughly equal to the height of the person who uses it); this will allow its user a fairly long draw, at least to the jaw.
A longbow is not significantly recurved. Its limbs are relatively narrow so that they are circular or D-shaped in cross section. Flatbow
Flatbow
A flatbow is a bow with non-recurved, flat, relatively wide limbs that are approximately rectangular in cross-section. Because the limbs are relatively wide, flatbows will usually narrow and become deeper at the handle, with a rounded, non-bending, handle for easier grip...

s can be just as long; the difference is that, in cross-section, a flatbow has limbs that are approximately rectangular.

The longbow is based on the late medieval English longbow
English longbow
The English longbow, also called the Welsh longbow, is a powerful type of medieval longbow about 6 ft long used by the English and Welsh for hunting and as a weapon in medieval warfare...

 in use during the 12th to 16th centuries.
The historical longbow was a self bow
Self bow
A self bow is a bow made from a single piece of wood. Extra material such as horn nocks on the ends, or built-up handles, would normally be accepted as part of a self bow...

, often made from yew
Taxus baccata
Taxus baccata is a conifer native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia. It is the tree originally known as yew, though with other related trees becoming known, it may be now known as the English yew, or European yew.-Description:It is a small-...

. Modern longbows may also be made from modern materials.

Organizations which run archery
Archery
Archery is the art, practice, or skill of propelling arrows with the use of a bow, from Latin arcus. Archery has historically been used for hunting and combat; in modern times, however, its main use is that of a recreational activity...

 competitions have set out formal definitions for the various classes; many definitions of the longbow would exclude some medieval examples, materials, and techniques of use. According to the British Longbow Society, the English longbow
English longbow
The English longbow, also called the Welsh longbow, is a powerful type of medieval longbow about 6 ft long used by the English and Welsh for hunting and as a weapon in medieval warfare...

 is made so that its thickness is at least ⅝ (62.5%) of its width, as in Victorian
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 longbows, and is widest at the handle. This differs from the Medieval longbow, which had a thickness between 33% and 75% of the width. Also, the Victorian longbow does not bend throughout the entire length, as does the medieval longbow. Longbows have been used for hunting
Hunting
Hunting is the practice of pursuing any living thing, usually wildlife, for food, recreation, or trade. In present-day use, the term refers to lawful hunting, as distinguished from poaching, which is the killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species contrary to applicable law...

 and war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

fare, by many cultures around the world, a famous example being the English longbow, during the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

.

History

The earliest known archaeological evidence of the bow and arrow dates to about 10,000 years ago, found in Ahrensburg valley north of Hamburg
Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

. The term "longbow" is coined ca. 1500 in reference to the English longbow
English longbow
The English longbow, also called the Welsh longbow, is a powerful type of medieval longbow about 6 ft long used by the English and Welsh for hunting and as a weapon in medieval warfare...

, to distinguish the simple self bow
Self bow
A self bow is a bow made from a single piece of wood. Extra material such as horn nocks on the ends, or built-up handles, would normally be accepted as part of a self bow...

 from the smaller composite bow
Composite bow
A composite bow is a bow made from horn, wood, and sinew laminated together. The horn is on the belly, facing the archer, and sinew on the back of a wooden core. Sinew and horn will store more energy than wood for the same length of bow...

.

In the Middle Ages the English and Welsh were famous for their very powerful English longbow
English longbow
The English longbow, also called the Welsh longbow, is a powerful type of medieval longbow about 6 ft long used by the English and Welsh for hunting and as a weapon in medieval warfare...

s, used to great effect in the civil wars of the period
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

 and against the French in the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

 (with notable success at the battles of Crécy
Battle of Crécy
The Battle of Crécy took place on 26 August 1346 near Crécy in northern France, and was one of the most important battles of the Hundred Years' War...

 (1346), Poitiers
Battle of Poitiers (1356)
The Battle of Poitiers was fought between the Kingdoms of England and France on 19 September 1356 near Poitiers, resulting in the second of the three great English victories of the Hundred Years' War: Crécy, Poitiers, and Agincourt....

 (1356) and Agincourt
Battle of Agincourt
The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory against a numerically superior French army in the Hundred Years' War. The battle occurred on Friday, 25 October 1415 , near modern-day Azincourt, in northern France...

 (1415).

The first book in English about longbow archery was Toxophilus
Toxophilus
Toxophilus is a book about longbow archery by Roger Ascham, first published in London in 1545. Dedicated to King Henry VIII, it is the first book on archery written in English....

by Roger Ascham
Roger Ascham
Roger Ascham was an English scholar and didactic writer, famous for his prose style, his promotion of the vernacular, and his theories of education...

, first published in London in 1545 and dedicated to King Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

.

The average length of arrowshafts recovered from the 1545 sinking of the Mary Rose
Mary Rose
The Mary Rose was a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a...

 is 75 cm (29.5 in)).

Although firearm
Firearm
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

s supplanted bows in warfare, wooden or fibreglass laminated
Laminated bow
A laminated bow is an archery bow in which different materials are laminated together to form the bow stave itself. Traditional composite bows are normally not included, although their construction with horn, wood, and sinew might bring them within the above definition. This term usually refers to...

 longbows continue to be used by traditional archers and some tribal societies, for recreation and hunting. A longbow has practical advantages compared to a modern recurve
Recurve bow
In archery, the shape of the bow is usually taken to be the view from the side. It is the product of the complex relationship of material stresses, designed by a bowyer...

 or compound bow
Compound bow
A compound bow is a modern bow that uses a levering system, usually of cables and pulleys, to bend the limbs.The limbs of a compound bow are much stiffer than those of a recurve bow or longbow. This limb stiffness makes the compound bow more energy-efficient than other bows, in conjunction with the...

; it is usually lighter, quicker to prepare for shooting, and shoots more quietly. However, other things being equal, the modern bow will shoot a faster arrow more accurately than the longbow.

A claymore and a longbow were the weapons carried by Lt. Col. Jack Churchill
Jack Churchill
Lieutenant Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming "Jack" Churchill, DSO & Bar, MC & Bar , nicknamed "Fighting Jack Churchill" and "Mad Jack", was a British soldier who fought throughout World War II armed with a longbow, arrows and a claymore...

 DSO, MC & BAR during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

Design and construction

Because the longbow can be made from a single piece of wood, it can be crafted relatively easily and quickly. Amateur bowyer
Bowyer
A bowyer is someone who makes or sells bows. Bows are used for hunting and for archery. The development of gunpowder and muskets slowly led to the replacement of bows as weapons of war which decreased the importance of bowyers. Someone who makes arrows is a fletcher.-History:Historically, a huge...

s today can craft a longbow in about ten to twenty hours, while highly skilled bowyers, such as those who produced medieval English longbows, can craft wooden longbows in just a few hours.

One of the simpler longbow designs is known as the self bow
Self bow
A self bow is a bow made from a single piece of wood. Extra material such as horn nocks on the ends, or built-up handles, would normally be accepted as part of a self bow...

. By definition, a self bow is made from a single piece of wood. Truly traditional English longbows are self bows, made from yew
Taxus baccata
Taxus baccata is a conifer native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia. It is the tree originally known as yew, though with other related trees becoming known, it may be now known as the English yew, or European yew.-Description:It is a small-...

 wood. The bowstave is cut from the radius of the tree so that the sapwood (on the outside of the tree) becomes the back two thirds and the belly, the remaining one third, is heartwood. Yew sapwood is good only in tension, while the heartwood is good in compression. However, one must make compromises when making a yew longbow, as it is difficult to find perfect unblemished yew. The demand for yew bowstaves was such that by the late 16th century, mature yew trees were almost extinct in northern Europe. In other desirable woods such as Osage orange and mulberry
Mulberry
Morus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Moraceae. The 10–16 species of deciduous trees it contains are commonly known as Mulberries....

 the sapwood is almost useless and is normally removed entirely.

Longbows, because of their narrow limbs and rounded cross-section (which does not spread out stress within the wood as evenly as a flatbow
Flatbow
A flatbow is a bow with non-recurved, flat, relatively wide limbs that are approximately rectangular in cross-section. Because the limbs are relatively wide, flatbows will usually narrow and become deeper at the handle, with a rounded, non-bending, handle for easier grip...

’s rectangular cross section), need to be either less powerful, longer or of more elastic wood than an equivalent flatbow. In Europe the last approach was used, with yew being the wood of choice, because of its high compressive strength, light weight and elasticity. Yew is the only widespread European timber that will make good self longbows, and has been the main wood used in European bows since Neolithic times. More common and cheaper hard woods, like elm
Elm
Elms are deciduous and semi-deciduous trees comprising the genus Ulmus in the plant family Ulmaceae. The dozens of species are found in temperate and tropical-montane regions of North America and Eurasia, ranging southward into Indonesia. Elms are components of many kinds of natural forests...

, oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

, ash
Ash tree
Fraxinus is a genus flowering plants in the olive and lilac family, Oleaceae. It contains 45-65 species of usually medium to large trees, mostly deciduous though a few subtropical species are evergreen. The tree's common English name, ash, goes back to the Old English æsc, while the generic name...

, hazel
Hazel
The hazels are a genus of deciduous trees and large shrubs native to the temperate northern hemisphere. The genus is usually placed in the birch family Betulaceae, though some botanists split the hazels into a separate family Corylaceae.They have simple, rounded leaves with double-serrate margins...

 or maple
Maple
Acer is a genus of trees or shrubs commonly known as maple.Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae, or together with the Hippocastanaceae included in the family Sapindaceae. Modern classifications, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system, favour inclusion in...

 are good for flatbow
Flatbow
A flatbow is a bow with non-recurved, flat, relatively wide limbs that are approximately rectangular in cross-section. Because the limbs are relatively wide, flatbows will usually narrow and become deeper at the handle, with a rounded, non-bending, handle for easier grip...

s. A narrow longbow with high draw-weight can be made from these woods, but it is likely to take a permanent bend (known as "set" or "following the string") and would likely be outshot by an equivalent made of yew.

Wooden laminated
Laminated bow
A laminated bow is an archery bow in which different materials are laminated together to form the bow stave itself. Traditional composite bows are normally not included, although their construction with horn, wood, and sinew might bring them within the above definition. This term usually refers to...

 longbows can be made by gluing together two or more different pieces of wood. Usually this is done to take advantage of the inherent properties of different woods: some woods can better withstand compression while others are better at withstanding tension. Examples include hickory
Hickory
Trees in the genus Carya are commonly known as hickory, derived from the Powhatan language of Virginia. The genus includes 17–19 species of deciduous trees with pinnately compound leaves and big nuts...

 and lemonwood or bamboo
Bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

 and yew longbows: hickory or bamboo is used on the back of the bow (the part facing away from the archer when shooting) and so is in tension, while the belly (the part facing the archer when shooting) is made of lemonwood or yew and undergoes compression (see bending
Bending
In engineering mechanics, bending characterizes the behavior of a slender structural element subjected to an external load applied perpendicularly to a longitudinal axis of the element. The structural element is assumed to be such that at least one of its dimensions is a small fraction, typically...

 for a further explanation of stresses in a bending beam). Traditionally made Japanese yumi
Yumi
is the Japanese term for bows, and includes the longer and the shorter used in the practice of kyūdō, or Japanese archery. The yumi was an important weapon of the samurai warrior during the feudal period of Japan.-History of the yumi:...

 are also laminated long bows, made from strips of wood: the core of the bow is bamboo
Bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

, the back and belly are bamboo or hardwood
Hardwood
Hardwood is wood from angiosperm trees . It may also be used for those trees themselves: these are usually broad-leaved; in temperate and boreal latitudes they are mostly deciduous, but in tropics and subtropics mostly evergreen.Hardwood contrasts with softwood...

 and hardwood strips are laminated to the bows sides to prevent twisting.

Today, good laminated longbows may be made of wood or can be purchased commercially. Any wooden bow must have gentle treatment and be protected from excessive damp or dryness. Wooden bows may shoot as well as fiberglass, but they are more easily dented or broken by abuse. Bows made of modern materials can be left strung for longer amounts of time than wood bows. Wooden bows should be unstrung immediately after use to avoid large amounts of set.

Legacy

The longbow and its historical significance arising from the effective use of the longbow by the English
English longbow
The English longbow, also called the Welsh longbow, is a powerful type of medieval longbow about 6 ft long used by the English and Welsh for hunting and as a weapon in medieval warfare...

 during the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

 have created a lasting legacy for the longbow, which resulted in several modern military vehicles, weapons and equipment to be named after the longbow. These include:

  • The AH-64D Apache Longbow
    AH-64 Apache
    The Boeing AH-64 Apache is a four-blade, twin-engine attack helicopter with a tailwheel-type landing gear arrangement, and a tandem cockpit for a two-man crew. The Apache was developed as Model 77 by Hughes Helicopters for the United States Army's Advanced Attack Helicopter program to replace the...

    , an attack helicopter;
  • The AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire
    AGM-114 Hellfire
    The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile developed primarily for anti-armor use. It has multi-mission, multi-target precision-strike capability, and can be launched from multiple air, sea, and ground platforms. The Hellfire missile is the primary 100 lb-class air-to-ground precision...

    , an air-to-ground missile; and
  • The Dakota Longbow T-76
    Longbow T-76
    The Longbow T-76 is a sniper rifle introduced in 1997 by Dakota Arms. The T-76 tactical rifle is based on their Model 76 hunting rifle. On its website Dakota Arms guarantees 1/2 MOA performance with an effective range of 1500 meters for the Longbow T-76 in its .338 configuration...

    , a sniper rifle.

See also

  • Bow draw
    Bow draw
    A bow draw is the method used to draw a bow. Currently, the most common method is the Mediterranean draw, long the usual method in European archery. Other methods include the pinch draw and the Mongolian draw.- Pinch draw or "primary release":...

  • Bow shape
  • Bow (weapon)
    Bow (weapon)
    The bow and arrow is a projectile weapon system that predates recorded history and is common to most cultures.-Description:A bow is a flexible arc that shoots aerodynamic projectiles by means of elastic energy. Essentially, the bow is a form of spring powered by a string or cord...

  • Cable-backed bow
    Cable-backed bow
    A cable-backed bow is a bow reinforced with a cable on the back. The cable is made from either animal, vegetable or synthetic fibers and is tightened to increase the strength of the bow. A cable will relieve tension stress from the back of the bow by raising its neutral plane: the border between...

     

  • Composite bow
    Composite bow
    A composite bow is a bow made from horn, wood, and sinew laminated together. The horn is on the belly, facing the archer, and sinew on the back of a wooden core. Sinew and horn will store more energy than wood for the same length of bow...

  • Crossbow
    Crossbow
    A crossbow is a weapon consisting of a bow mounted on a stock that shoots projectiles, often called bolts or quarrels. The medieval crossbow was called by many names, most of which derived from the word ballista, a torsion engine resembling a crossbow in appearance.Historically, crossbows played a...

  • English Longbow
    English longbow
    The English longbow, also called the Welsh longbow, is a powerful type of medieval longbow about 6 ft long used by the English and Welsh for hunting and as a weapon in medieval warfare...

  • Horse archer
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