Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Hornbows in Europe 800-1500? Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Levente M.




Location: Hungary
Joined: 19 Aug 2009

Posts: 35

PostPosted: Tue 19 May, 2015 3:48 am    Post subject: Hornbows in Europe 800-1500?         Reply with quote

My question is, were horn bows used in (mainly Western) Europe in the middle ages? If so, in what period, where, by whom and how (infantry or cavalry)?
I know all sorts of people used them in the Hungarian Kingdom throughout the period: Hungarians, Cumans, Székelys etc. They were all light cavalry, horse archers.
I have seen some archers with hornbow-looking bows in the Morgan Bible, and a 14th century Italian miniature, used by western looking people. I know this alone doesn't mean anything.
So any ideas? Happy Speculation is also welcome.
View user's profile Send private message
Henrik Zoltan Toth




Location: Hungary
Joined: 18 Feb 2007

Posts: 196

PostPosted: Tue 19 May, 2015 3:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Reflexbogen 71-113. pp, publisher: Angelika Hörnig.

You can find it on google books. Happy
View user's profile Send private message
David Hohl




Location: Oregon
Joined: 07 Feb 2011

Posts: 57

PostPosted: Tue 19 May, 2015 4:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

https://www.academia.edu/1429936/Eastern_archery_in_Birka_s_Garrison
View user's profile Send private message
Harri Kyllönen




Location: Finland
Joined: 12 Jun 2009

Posts: 42

PostPosted: Tue 19 May, 2015 6:56 am    Post subject: Re: Hornbows in Europe 800-1500?         Reply with quote

The uralic (finno-ugric) two-wood recurve bow was used in Northern Europe (there are finds from Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway). It has a composite structure (two different woods glued together, bark wrapping, siyah's...) but it doesn't normally have horn parts.
It is very similar in function and looks to hornbows and is related to it. Most noticeable difference is that the two-wood bow is much longer and less recurved.
View user's profile Send private message
Levente M.




Location: Hungary
Joined: 19 Aug 2009

Posts: 35

PostPosted: Wed 20 May, 2015 2:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you all!

Zoltán (vagy Henrik?), I'll have to refresh my German for that. Big Grin

I read the Birka paper, though I thought most agreed,.that the items described belonged to mercenaries from the East?

Didn't know about the two-wood bows. Do you have any more info on those?
View user's profile Send private message
Harri Kyllönen




Location: Finland
Joined: 12 Jun 2009

Posts: 42

PostPosted: Thu 21 May, 2015 7:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Levente M. wrote:
Didn't know about the two-wood bows. Do you have any more info on those?


Ragnar Insulander has written a good article on them: http://www.freebirdarchery.com/images/twowoodbow.pdf

Here's a detail picture of a Novgorodian two-wood bow from medieval times. The design itself is much older than that (bronze age and perhaps even neolithic). It's spread was from Siberia to Scandinavia. It's possibly the predecessor of the hornbow since it's similarly built and complex but lacks strengthening horn parts.



In pictures it could easily be confused for a hornbow. Here's a Sami two-wood bow (17th century):

View user's profile Send private message
David Hohl




Location: Oregon
Joined: 07 Feb 2011

Posts: 57

PostPosted: Sat 23 May, 2015 4:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Makes sense that Scandinavia would have their own version; the horn bow certainly made it through Russia, particularly with the Mongols, but the Huns definitely had them, and they made it as far as Germany. If I was to guess, I'd say that the traditional compsite bow was certainly brought into Europe, repeatedly by many different groups, though it apparently only caught on in a limited fashion.

Since we have reliable evidence that the Huns, and the Hungarians, and the Mongols definitely used this bow, and all of them conquered, traded with, or fought with Western Europe and Russia from the fifth century right through to the 19th. There's no evidence that composite bows were manufactured in Europe, but I'm sure the bows made it through either trade or conquest, as well as people from the cultures mentioned traveling and working in Europe.

One explanation for the bow never catching on in Europe is that a horn and sinew bow is fairly tricky to store and use, and is very sensitive to humidity. For someone not brought up with the tradition of how to care for this technology, the superior performance could have been outweighed by fiddly-ness and unfamiliarity.
View user's profile Send private message
Baard H




Location: Norway
Joined: 13 Mar 2013

Posts: 90

PostPosted: Sat 23 May, 2015 4:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David Hohl wrote:
One explanation for the bow never catching on in Europe is that a horn and sinew bow is fairly tricky to store and use, and is very sensitive to humidity. For someone not brought up with the tradition of how to care for this technology, the superior performance could have been outweighed by fiddly-ness and unfamiliarity.


Is it really superior though?
Also, one thing the eastern steppes and northern Scandinavia has in common is a lack of good bow-wood. The composite nature of the bows used in these areas isn't due to choice but pure necessity. So when (if) western bow-makers and archers where faced with a choice of either making a good bow designed for their use relatively easily from a single bow-stave or make a good, complex bow designed for someone else's use from a multitude of different materials, it isn't really that strange they did not adopt it.

At kveldi skal dag leyfa,
konu, er brennd er,
mćki, er reyndr er,
mey, er gefin er,
ís, er yfir kemr,
öl, er drukkit er.
-Hávamál, vísa 81
View user's profile Send private message
Harri Kyllönen




Location: Finland
Joined: 12 Jun 2009

Posts: 42

PostPosted: Sun 24 May, 2015 9:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scythians and the Greek used composite bows well before the Huns in Europe. Cretan composite bow archers were succesful merrcenaries even in Alexanders time. Also Romans are well known to have used composite bows everywhere in the Empire. There are Roman composite bow finds from England.

In medieval times composite bows were popular in Sicily which was for a time under muslim rule.
But the crossbow and longbow were just more popular. European crossbow prods were often composite so the technology was known and used.
View user's profile Send private message
Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Thu 18 Jun, 2015 4:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Composite bows might not have been very popular for war in medieval Western Europe, but bows with a distinctly recurved look appear with some regularity in hunting scenes and these might have been of composite construction at least some of the time. And of course composite prods were fairly common for crossbows in Italy -- possibly due to the influence of Arab settlers and raiders and their descendants in Sicily and southern Italy, since some of the early Norman lords seem to have recruited archers from among their local Arab subjects.
View user's profile Send private message
Alexis Bataille




Location: montpellier
Joined: 31 Aug 2014

Posts: 95

PostPosted: Fri 19 Jun, 2015 12:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you have to guess a price ratio between longbow and composite bow of the same power (initial ballistic energy in joules) what should it be ?
View user's profile Send private message
Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Fri 19 Jun, 2015 1:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Too many variables. When and where and in what circumstances? A composite bow might intuitively seem to be more expensive due to the multiple steps and sheer amount of labour needed just to get it into action, but a longbow made of high-quality wood might get really expensive in a place where the wood had to be imported from far away.
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Hornbows in Europe 800-1500?
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum