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Bow - The chief weapon of the early American Indian.  Bows were made from many types of springy woods, as well as from bone and horn, and were of different lengths and shapes.  The Indian prized his bow and took good care of it, keeping it unstrung and in a bow case when not in use.  Even after he had acquired firearms, he usually carried his bow whether in war or on the hunt.

There were four general types of bows in use by the Indians.  One was the Indian Bowself-bow, made of one long length of wood, popular with the eastern Indians.  Then there was the compound bow, made of several layers of wood, bone, or horn, glued and lashed together, used by some Plains tribes.  The third was the sinew wrapped bow, made of a brittle wood which was wrapped from wing to wing with sinew.  This bow was used among the Alaskan tribes.  The last type was the sinew backed self-bow strengthened by a strip of sinew or rawhide, glued and lashed to the back of the bow, much used by the California tribes.

The Eskimo made a bow out of whales' ribs, set on a wooden grip.  The North Pacific tribes used a short bow with flat wide wings and a round grip.  The Florida Indians' bow was as long as the height of the man who used it.  Bows of the Plains Indians were shorter than most, as they usually were shot from horseback.  Some Plains tribes, as well as the Apache, bent back the tips of the wings in the shape of a cupid's bow.  Pueblo Indians made small painted bows to be used in religious ceremonies and to be buried with the dead.

Bows were made of the wood of the osage orange (bois d'arc), found west of the Mississippi, ironwood, second growth hickory, cedar, dogwood, white ash and mulberry.

Indians learned the use of the bow from childhood.  Many stories have been told of how Indians could shoot for or five arrows, one after the other, before a man could reload his gun.  When the Spanish conquistadores found that an arrow would go through a coat of mail they adopted as armor the quilted cloth of the mexican Indians.

The University of California tested the distances arrows could be shot.  These tests showed:  Osage bow, 92 yards; Apache bow, 120 yards; Blackfoot bow, 145 yards; Cheyenne bow, 165 yards; Yaqui Indian bow (from Mexico), 210 yards; English long bow, 250 yards.
 

Related Information within this Site
[ Arrow ][ Arrow Release ][ Bear ][ Bowstring ][ Buffalo ][ Elk ]
[ Horn and Bone Craft ][ Hunting ][ Quiver ][ Sinew ]