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english longbow vs native american bows

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by ArmedOkie, Sep 14, 2013.

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  1. ArmedOkie

    ArmedOkie Member

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    Are american indian bows, lets say a cherokee self bow, as long and cumbersome as the 6-7 foot ELB's?

    I want a very simple primitive bow for target and deer hunting, so a huge bow may be an issue. I dont want a recurve. Being cherokee, id really like an authentic cherokee bow, but would like a cheaper bow of similar design to try out first. Only ever used compounds before.
     
  2. mole

    mole Member

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    No, they are not. The ELB were that big because of the heavy draw weights and draw lengths that they had. Since a Cherokee bow would be about a third the draw weight and a smaller draw length, they would be much shorter, thinner, and narrower. The Cherokee bow would usually be made of black locust, but hickory, elm and ash would also be good choices. The Cherokee bow would have a less pronounced taper down it's length. The ELB would have horn nocks and a rounded belly while the Cherokee would have a flat belly and diamond shaped carved nocks. Native bows would often also have a narrowed, thicker handle section whereas the ELB would have the thickest, widest point at the handle.

    Here's a couple of pictures I took of a Cherokee bow from the early 1800s. Not great quality, but I was in a hurry. The handle is from a bow a few decades newer.
    DSCF0574_edited.jpg
    DSCF0575_edited.jpg
    DSCF0579_edited.jpg

    Making an authentic bowstring from dogbane fibers or sinew is a lot of work. The length of the bow will depend a good deal on how long of a draw you use.
     
  3. saltydog452

    saltydog452 Member

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    I am impressed. Where were those photos taken?

    Thanks for the photos and information.

    salty
     
  4. ArmedOkie

    ArmedOkie Member

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    Thanks a ton! Sounds like the elb wont satisfy and i may as well just commission a cherokee bow
     
  5. mole

    mole Member

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    I took the photos years ago at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. http://www.cherokeemuseum.org/ It's the eastern band tribe.

    An ELB will work fine if scaled down to hunting weights and draw length instead of trying to take down an armored Frenchman. Eastern Red Cedar makes a beautiful ELB.

    I would suggest making your own instead of commissioning one. Just a few hand tools are required and there is plenty of free information on the web.

    John
     
  6. Officers'Wife

    Officers'Wife Member

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    When I was growing up, my uncle forced me to build a bow in the manner of Sioux. Complete with the bend-back and sinew fibers on the backside. The bowstring was twisted flax. The wood was hedgeapple. I must have spent at least a hundred hours building that thing hating every minute of it. Making the arrows was a nightmare that even Dante would have tried to avoid. Then when it was finished I had to sit in a dumb tree and use that innocent wood, fiber and bone to kill a whitetail deer.

    Whether my bow was better or worse than the English longbow is a question for better minds than mine. All I know is that it provided some of the best venison tenderloin I had ever tasted before or since. I'm still kicking myself for allowing a boy to talk me out of that bow.
     
  7. kBob

    kBob Member

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    Here in Florida some of the Indians encountered by early Spanish and French explorers were said to have bow much like the length of the ELB and of about that sort of power. One report was that an Indian freaked over a mounted man fire an arrow from one that penetrated the rider's calf the horse the riders other calf and stuck in a tree.

    I have found nothing reliable about those bows but find the reports interesting.

    -kBob
     
  8. ArmedOkie

    ArmedOkie Member

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    id really like to shoot with a decent quality bow for a period before i commit the time to building a really special one for myself. Like I said, ive never had a primitive before and need to be sure it's for me. Free time is short for me these days.

    I'm looking at these
    http://northwoodtraditionalarchery.com/stick_bow_american_indian_bows.html#.UjUxfsakrgM

    They look to be good quality, even has diamond nocks. I've seen some videos of him (greg anderson) building bows online. I can live with the price too. Anyone have experience with his work?
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2013
  9. AlexanderA

    AlexanderA Member

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    The English longbows were so superior to the native American bows that the early colonists were worried that English bows would fall into the hands of the natives and be copied by them. When the Jamestown colonists heard that the Virginia Company was sending them a shipment of bows, they became so alarmed that they sent a ship out to interdict the shipment. The bows were offloaded in Bermuda and never made it to the New World.

    No worries about guns, steel swords, etc., being captured, because the native technology would have been incapable of copying them. Besides, where were the natives going to get gunpowder? But English longbows fell into the niche of being low enough tech to be copied, but much higher tech than what the natives had.
     
  10. Pete D.

    Pete D. Member

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    Bows

    As I understand the subject, the ELB made its mark as a military weapon. Quite heavy draw, it was used for volley fire, a tradition that continued as a British military tactic for centuries.
    Were the heavy bows used for hunting?
    American Indian bows were, primarily, used for hunting. Their secondary use would have been making war. I suspect the the kind of wars fought between tribes in the middle Atlantic and New England regions were quite different than those fought in England and on the continent.
    These situations demanded different bows.
    Here is a pic of a Cherry flatbow that I made. Very similar to what has been described. 45# at 28"....not a great picture, sorry.
    Pete
    CherryFlatbow.jpg
     
  11. Missionary

    Missionary Member

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    Good morning
    As Pet D wrote .. bows are about purpose.
    The ELB was a long distance artillery weapon well capable of hitting massed targets hundreds of yards away.
    A hunting bow is for the stealthy approach in close settings. But if your hunting requires shots of 50 yards then you will need a 70 pound pull. The river bottoms I hunt.. 45 pounds is more than sufficient to but I use 52 pounds..

    Mike in Peru
     
  12. Bikewer

    Bikewer Member

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    As I recall from some rather extensive reading in The Primitive Bowyer's Bible series and other works...

    Amerind bows varied greatly depending on the materials available to them. Eastern woodland tribes had fine bow woods...Hickory, Osage Orange, many more.
    Western tribes often had to make do with what they had available. As noted above...Eastern tribes often made bows similar in size to European longbows, but the draw weights were typically less as most all the Amerind tribes used the "pinch draw" instead of the "three fingered" draw used in Europe.
    This limits how much you can draw... Historians figure a typical hunting bow may have been in the 45-50 pound range, those for war perhaps closer to 80.

    Western bows were short (also indicated for horseback hunting), sinew-backed (due to the inferior woods) and meant to be used at closer range.
     
  13. RyanM

    RyanM Member

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    That doesn't sound very accurate to me at all.

    Technologically, there was nothing particularly special about English longbows. They were just exceptionally long, thick, strong, well-made D or round cross section self bows. Nothing complex or fancy in their construction, just a really strong piece of wood, a really strong string, and a lot of craftsmanship.

    They also tended to require training from a very young age in order to build up the muscle strength necessary to pull them, and perform the correct motions (the reconstructed draw of an English longbow is actually fairly complex and demanding, much like how competitive weightlifting is a lot more complex than grab-and-heave). The training was intensive enough that yeoman remains from the time that longbows were used, all have very specific, distinctive skeletal deformities. Most of them would have been crippled by arthritis by age 40, if they lived that long.

    I'm pretty sure the eastern woodland tribes could have easily made comparable bows, if they'd had any inclination to. But they didn't, because they had no need to fire incredibly heavy, thick arrows that were intended to have some chance of piercing iron and steel armor.

    The early colonists were morons if they were actually worried about Native Americans copying 150 pound bows and 3 ounce arrows, and spending years learning how to properly draw them and exercising to build up enough strength.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2013
  14. AJumbo

    AJumbo Member

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    I think if I was sneaking around in thick woods, I'd want something handier than an English longbow. At the close ranges those woods present, 150# pounds of draw would have been overkill at any rate, and would probably have been slower to draw than what my native forebears were carrying. The ELB is not a bushwhacker's weapon.

    I seem to remember reading that Henry VIII commanded that no archer would practice at ranges of less than one hundred paces. I guess that would help you develop a good follow-through. From the same article, I learned that the skeletons of archers found on the wreck of the Mary Rose had "ape-like" arms and shoulders; I don't doubt it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2013
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