The Mongol bow is a type of composite bow (bows made of multiple materials laminated together) that has a recurve form. These bows originated with the Mongols of ancient Asia and were very much a part of their life for hunting as well as warfare.
Construction: Mongol bows were composite in structure; the core wood with the belly usually being horn and the back sinew. The layers were bound together using a glue made from animals, most often fish bladders. While giving the bow it’s strength, the layered structure was also a liability because the glue was water soluble over time and humidity, rain or other water could ruin the bow. Ancient Mongols often wrapped their bows in various material to help with their preservation and when not use the bows were stored in protective cases similar to scabbards.
Mongol composite bows were somewhat unique in that the top and bottom parts of the string rest on flats of the bow. The extreme recurve shape and flats at the ends increase the draw weight and total stored energy of the bow, making them even more powerful than the famed English longbow. It has also been theorized that the the flats acted as a string stop to give the arrow a cleaner release and a higher speed coming off of the string.
Ancient versions of the bow ranged from eighty to over one hundred fifty pounds or more. To shoot the bow a thumb ring made from horn or jade is hooked to the string just under the arrow. Once at full draw and when the target is acquired, the thumb is relaxed to let the ring open and the string allowed to slide off.
Often soldiers on horse would carry two of the bows, one for short ranges and one for longer. Up to fifty or more arrows were carried at a time as the bow was the preferred of all the available weapons. Arrows were tipped with tempered steel broadheads that could pierce the enemy’s armor. There were also incendiary arrows used for lighting buildings and other structures on fire.
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