Mongolian Bow

The Mongolian bow is a recurred composite bow renowned for its military effectiveness. The old composite bows that were used during the times of Genghis Khan were smaller than the modern weapons used at most Naadam festivals today.

The Mongolian archery tradition may be continuous, but archery was officially outlawed in Mongolia after it was conquered by the Manchu dynasty.

Ancient and modern Mongolian bows are part of the Asian composite bow tradition. The core is wooden, with horn on the belly (facing towards the archer) and sinew on the back, bound together with animal glue.

As animal glue is dissolved by water, composite bows may be ruined by rain or excess humidity; a wrapper of (waterproof) birch bark may give limited protection from moisture and from mechanical damage. The bow is usually stored in a leather case for protection when not in use.

The principal difference between the modern Mongol bow and other composite bows is the presence of a "string run" or "string bridge" - an attachment of horn, leather, or wood used to hold the string a little further apart from the bow's limbs at the base of the siyah.

This attachment aids the archer by increasing the draw weight in the early stages of the draw, thus slightly increasing the total energy stored by the draw and available to the arrow. String bridges are not attested at the time of the Mongol empire, appearing in Chinese art during the later Manchu Qing dynasty. The armies of Genghis Khan would have used the composite bows typical of their various nationalities at the time.

An inscription on a stone was found near Nerchinsk in Siberia: "While Genghis Khan was holding an assembly of Mongolian dignitaries, after his conquest of Sartaul (East Turkestan), Yesüngge, the son of Genghis Khan's brother, shot a target at 335 alds (536 m)."

In the historical novel "Khökh Sudar" Injinashi, the Mongolian philosopher, historian and writer, imagines the competition amongst all Mongolian men in about 1194-1195: five archers each hit the target three times from a distance of 500 bows (1 bow = at least 1 meter).

Click here Mongolian bow to read about modern Mongolian archery.