Roger Ascham’s first published work, and the first book on archery, Toxophilus (from Greek, meaning ‘lover of the bow’) written in 1545, was dedicated to Henry VIII. The purpose of the book was twofold; to commend the practice of shooting with the long bow, and to set the example of a higher style of composition than had yet been attempted in English.
Ascham presented the book to Henry VIII at Greenwich soon after the King’s return from the capture of Boulogne, and received a grant of a pension of £10 a year.
You can freely download the Edward Arber 1895 edit of Toxophilus, from the ‘Internet Archive’.
Is the term used to denote the science of archery.
Is an archer who shoots crossbow.
A maker of medieval bows, arrows and other archery equipment.
Named after Roger Ascham, this is the old name for a bow cabinet.
Transverse cracks in the belly of a wooden bow caused by crushing when the bow is drawn.
An old term used to define the bracing height of a bow.
The banner of a club, county or group of archers.
- Lady Paramount
Traditionally appointed to preside at tournaments and to present awards. If there are any disputes that can’t be resolved by the judges, the Lady Paramount has the final say.
A type of feathered wooden arrow shot from an early form of musket.
A large shield with a prop used to protect crossbow archers during battles.
The outer edge of the target for which there is no score. May be counted in a longbow competition and a prize awarded for the most petticoats.
Is another name for a crossbow bolt.
- Robin Hood
The term describing one arrow hitting another one dead on and splitting it, or becoming embedded inside it.
- Self bow
A bow made from a single piece of wood.
The word originally meant ‘The last shot in an archery tournament’.
First used bows and arrows for warfare activities in 2340BC.
- But then again…
Early stone arrowheads discovered in Africa were dated to around 25000BC or before.
The oldest extant bows in one piece are the elm Holmegaard bows from Denmark which were dated to 9000 BC. High performance wooden bows are currently made following the Holmegaard design.
The Stellmoor bow fragments from northern Germany were dated to about 8000BC, but they were destroyed in Hamburg during the Second World War, before Carbon 14 dating was available – their age is attributed by archaeological association.
- A noble history
Archery was the favourite sport of the Egyptian pharaohs during the 18th dynasty (1567-1320 BC)
- Practice makes perfect
In 1252 the ‘Assize of Arms’ stated that all Englishmen, aged 15 to 60, were ordered by law to equip themselves with a bow and arrows.
The Plantagenet King Edward III took this further and decreed the Archery Law in 1363 which commanded the obligatory practice of archery on Sundays and holidays, supervised by the local clergy – who were also required to maintain the butts.
The Archery Law ‘forbade, on pain of death, all sport that took up time better spent on war training especially archery practise’. King Henry I later proclaimed that an archer would be absolved of murder, if he killed a man during archery practice!
(This was later repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act c.125 in 1863)
- 22 men and a good walk spoiled
In 1457, James II decreed that the sports of football and golf should be banned as they interfered with compulsory archery practice.
- It’s not cricket
Not satisfied with that, in 1477 Edward IV bans the early version of the game of cricket as it is also interfering with archery practice.
- Crossbows are out
They were forbidden in 1508, to increase the use of the longbow.
- You can’t get the staff
In 1510, Henry VIII purchased 40,000 yew bow staves from the Doge of Venice.
- On the subject of practice
Koreans are introduced to archery at primary school, with talented children receiving up to two hours training a day.
The less able are then weeded out at middle school, high school and university level until the very best are hired as adults by the company teams run by organisations such as car manufacturer Hyundai.
Approximately 30% of the Korean Archery Association’s (KAA) budget comes from the country’s Olympic Committee, but the main financial strength of the system is from 33 company teams who provide a wage and a pension to archers employed solely to compete for them.
The scale of this investment saw Korea build an exact replica of the 5,000-seater Olympic Green Archery Field – the venue used in Beijing – for their archers to train for more than a year in advance of the competition’s start.
In 2012, Americans bought 23,085,826 bare arrow shafts, paying over $10,600,000 in tax at $0.46 per shaft.
The 11% tax on other archery equipment yielded a return of $34,264,959 on sales of approx. $310,000,000
- Compounds ‘r’ US
In 2012, nearly 60% of America’s 5.8 million female archers shot compound bows, compared to 80% of the 13.1 million male archers.
Hoyt was founded in 1931 in Van Nuys, California with Earl Hoyt Sr. and his son producing hand made cedar arrows and wooden bows. In 1983, Hoyt was purchased by sporting goods equipment manufacturer Jas D. Easton Inc., and its headquarters moved to Salt Lake City.
The Hoyt Buffalo hunting recurve was used by the character Hawkeye in the Avengers movie, as well as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games series.
The Hoyt Spectra bow was the principal weapon used by Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo in Rambo II and Rambo III.
- How far did you say?
The current distance record for a conventional Flight bow is held by the American Don Brown, who achieved 1,222.01m on 2nd August 1987 at Smithcreek, USA.
Whilst his fellow American, Harry Drake, achieved 1,410.87m using a Foot bow at Ivanpah USA, on 6th October 1979.
The furthest accurate shot under FITA conditions was 200m by the Australian Peter Terry at the Kalamunda Governor Stirling Archery Club, Perth, Australia on 15 December 2005. He hit 2 out of 6 on a FITA 122cm target, using a compound bow.
The medieval English longbow had a draw weight of over 150 pounds, and bowmen were expected to be accurate at ranges over 150 yards, with arrows easily penetrating the personal armour worn at the time.
The original medieval arrow head, the Broadhead, would distribute the impact over a large area and just bounce off or break against armour.
The Bodkin arrowhead was invented to address this issue – long Bodkins were used for piercing chain mail, whilst short Bodkins were used for piercing armour plate. The range of bodkin-headed arrows was up to 275 yards.
- The ‘Longbowman Salute’ is a myth
According to stories, the French were in the habit of cutting off the arrow-shooting fingers of captured English and Welsh longbowmen, and the gesture was taken to be a sign of defiance on the part of the bowmen, showing the enemy that they still had their fingers, or, as a widespread pun puts it, that they could still ‘pluck yew’.
However, the phrase ‘pluck yew’ is thought to be a definitively false etymology that seems to originate from a December 1996 ‘Usenet’ discussion that circulated the story.
The longbowman story is also unlikely, since no evidence exists of French forces cutting off the fingers of captive bowmen – the standard procedure at the time was to summarily execute all enemy commoners captured on the battlefield (regardless of whether they were bowmen, foot soldiers or merely unarmed auxiliaries) since they had no ransom value, unlike the nobles whose lives could be worth thousands of florins apiece.
At Olympic archery events, there is a protected area known as the ‘blind’ where you can find the judges and their spotter, who uses a telescope to record scores.
The most decorated archer in Olympic history is Hubert Van Innis of Belgium who competed in 1900 and 1920, winning six gold and three silver medals.
- Timing is everything
Olympic archers have just 40 seconds to release their arrow. (2 minutes for 3 arrows, 4 minutes for 6 arrows)
- 1900 Olympic Games
In these games, archers used live pigeons as targets.
- Lottie Dod
Winner of Wimbledon’s female singles title five times between 1887 and 1893 and championship golfer, won an archery silver medal in the 1908 Olympics.
- Geena Davis
In 1999, the Oscar winning actress ranked 24th out of 300, in the United States qualifying rounds for the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics. She didn’t qualify.
Has archery as its’ national sport.
Archery was the sole Olympic event where females could participate. Later, women participated in swimming, as well as track and field events, in 1912 and 1928 respectively.
In 1908, Sybil ‘Queenie’ Newall aged 53, became the oldest female to win an archery individual gold Olympic medal.
- Fifty is the new gold
Since 1896, more than 120 archers (winning over 180 medals) were more than fifty years old.
At the age of 63, Eliza Pollock won a gold and two bronze medals in the 1904 Olympics.
- Martial arts
Kyudo (way of the bow) is the modern Japanese martial art of archery.
It is based on Kyujutsu (art of archery), which originated with the Samurai class of feudal Japan, and is practised by thousands of people worldwide. As of 2005, the International Kyudo Federation had 132,760 members.
- Bow hunting in the UK
In 1963, the legislation that outlawed bow hunting listed permitted hunting weapons but did not include archery equipment – effectively making bow hunting illegal by implication.
This was addressed in 1981 by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which explicitly outlawed the use of bows or crossbows (section 11) – it didn’t mention arrows though…