Medieval Archery *13 Surprising Facts

Medieval archery may seem like a topic of the past but there are many fascinating facts about medieval archery you probably didn’t know about!

Take a look at our list below and get ready to be amazed by what you discover!

1. The Longbow Wasn’t Actually Invented in England

A common misconception is that the longbow was invented in England. The truth is that it had been around for centuries before, first appearing in Asia as early as 2500 B.C. The invention of the longbow most likely happened independently in many different parts of the world at various points in history.

Tudor Weapons

Tudor Longbowmen were some of the best foot soldiers in the Tudor Armi

2. The Longbow Was Used Primarily for Hunting, Not Warfare

The Longbow is most often associated with the battles of Crecy, Agincourt and Towton in the Hundred Years War. The Longbow was so powerful that it could pierce plate armor at a distance of 200 yards. However during the medieval period the longbow was commonly used for hunting purposes.

Medieval Archer taking part of a Medieval Tournament

3. The Longbow Was Highly Accurate

The English Longbow, had a range of 250 yards with an effective range of 180-200 yards. This allowed the archers to take out the enemy before they could close the distance and engage in hand-to-hand combat. In addition, it only took about five seconds to reload a bow which meant that archers could fire at their leisure.

English enemy fire their arrow bolts at French Enemy

4. A well-trained longbowman could shoot up to 12 arrows per minute.

Medieval Bowyers Longbow

Medieval Longbow were made by bowyers

5. The average English longbowman in battle was between 5’7 and 5’8 tall.

English longbowmen Battle of Agincourt

6. The peak draw weight of a medieval bow was typically around 60 -100 pounds.

Medieval Longbow used by Longbowmen

Vertical image of medieval Longbow used by Longbowmen

7. One of the most popular types of arrows used by medieval archers was the bodkin arrow, which had a broad metal head designed to penetrate armor.

Bodkin Arrow Head

8. Longbows are most effective when shot from an elevated position because the trajectory of the arrow is much flatter than that of shorter bows.

Longbows also need more space to fire because they have longer draw lengths and must be drawn with both arms as opposed to just one arm like with smaller bows.

Medieval Archers Longbowmen

9. Most Longbowmen Were Left-Handed

Most Longbowmen Were Left-Handed. In order to use a longbow effectively, you need to pull it with your right hand while holding the arrow in your left. This is because the longbow uses the strength of both arms instead of just one and requires a high level of dexterity in the fingers.

A longbow is only effective if both sides of the arm are working together and most people are more dexterous with their dominant hand than their non-dominant hand.


Medieval longbowmen armour and helmets

10. The Longbow Was Made from Yew Wood

The longbow was made from Yew wood, which is native to the British Isles and often found in England. This lightweight yet strong material is also resistant to rot, making it a perfect material for archery bows.

The yew tree has an average height of 3-4 meters, but can grow up to 9 meters tall. It produces sap that is used in many medicines and has been used as a food source. It can live up to 400 years or more!

Yew Tree

Yew Tree

11. The Longbow Was Used in the Battle of Agincourt

The longbow is believed to be the most common weapon of the English army during Agincourt. The simple design was popularized by English peasants who used it as a tool for hunting after their fields had been harvested. They would pull on the string with a draw-force of 100 pounds or more which made it an extremely deadly weapon in battle!

King Henry V battle of Agincourt

King Henry V won the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 with a outnumbered army

12. The Longbow Was Declared Illegal in 1472

Longbows were a very popular weapon in medieval times. In 1472, the English government declared that the use of longbows was illegal and they could only be used in the army by those who had been conscripted. They were said to have banned it because there was a shortage of skilled bowyers.