Statistic Graphic on the History of the Bow and Arrow Dating Back Over 50,000 Years Ago - AccuBow

The History of the Bow and Arrow

Nowadays, there are millions of archers around the world who enjoy shooting bows during competitions, practicing at archery ranges, or just for recreational purposes in their backyards. There are even innovative bow trainers available that can be equipped with iPhone archery training apps. There was a time, however, when archery was a lot more primitive.

Let's take a look at the history of the bow and arrow now.

When Was the Bow and Arrow Invented?

Many wonder who invented bows and arrows. The earliest evidenceof bow and arrow usage can be found in Europe, though there are possible fragments that were found in Germany dated 17,500 to 18,000 years old. However, archaeologists and bow history experts believe hunters have been using bows and arrows as early as 50,000 years ago.

Bows and arrows have been important throughout history for both hunting purposes and warfare. From prehistoric times until the widespread use of gunpowder in the 16th century, bow and arrows were the main instruments used during battle. Additionally, across Europe, though organized warfare with bows ended in the mid 17th century, it persisted into the early 19th century for tribal warfare in the New World.

Indigenous people used these weapons for battle in every part of the world except for Australia. Also, in addition to hunting and warfare, bows and arrows were used for sport in ancient cultures of India, China, and Egypt.

How Were Primitive Bow and Arrows Made?

What was the first bow and arrow made of? The firstbows and arrows were originally made of bamboo and other types of wood, and the bowstrings were constructed of animal gut. Asian and Native American bow makers started gluing animal tendon to the back of the bow for a more complete design. 

Composite bows, which are made of three or more layers of dissimilar substances, were invented by several cultures across Asia as much as 4,500 years ago. Arrows began being tipped with arrowheads shaped from bone, horn, flint, bronze, and -- eventually -- steel and iron.

Compound Bows vs. Traditional Bows

Early bows and arrows, sometimes also referred to as “traditional” bows and arrows, are a lot more simplistic than today’s much more advanced compound bows. Believe it or not, the compound bow was invented by Holess Wilber Allen and patented in 1969. That’s less than a century ago!

That said, there’s something to be said about the longstanding efficacy of traditional bows, which are themselves usually broken into two subcategories: longbows and recurve bows based on the limb design of each. 

Outdoor Life succinctly explains the difference between the two like this: “On a longbow, the string only touches the limbs at the very tip at the string grooves, forming a “D” shape. Recurve bows have a distinctive hook at the end of their limbs and the string rests on a portion of the belly of the limb.”

That having been said, both longbows and recurve bows are much more simplistic than compound bows, which use sights and are much faster, much more powerful, and more accurate than their traditional counterparts.

History of the Compound Bow


While Allen applied for a patent for compound bow in 1966, it wasn’t granted until 1969. That having been said, he released the bow to market in 1967.

Archery 360’s blog on the History of the Compound Bow explains why Allen invented this now-ubiquitious hunting tool: “Allen was a bowhunter who was tired of game ducking away from arrows he shot from his traditional bow. Using physics as his guide, Allen built bows equipped with cables and wheels to act as force-multipliers to boost arrow speeds. He eventually crafted an effective design, and introduced the Allen Compound Bow to the market in 1967.”


Even with the improvements early compound bows had on traditional bows, they still have nothing on today’s modern compound bows, which are shorter, thanks in large part to the inclusion of mechanical release aids, which were incorporated into bows as early as the 1970s.

By 1974, there were over eight compound bow brands on the market!

1990s to Today

Mathews Archery is accredited with making compound bows even easier and nicer to shoot by releasing “Solocam bows” that used a single-cam with a wheel on the top limb to modulate string movement.

Another improvement on compound bows was the replacement of strands of steel cable with twisted strands of synthetic fibers, which are strong but also extremely light and more cost-effective to use.

Archery Safety, Then and Now 

For decades, archery was extremely dangerous, from the first bow and arrow to other early ancient bows and arrows. But is actually quite safe today. In fact, according to recent National Safety Council statistics, archery is more than three times safer than golf, withjust one injury for every 2,000 participants.

Virtual Bows Make Archery Practice Easy

Today, bow trainers equipped with archery apps allow anyone to work on their shooting accuracy and archery skills from the comfort of their own home. If you want to check out some high-quality bow trainers and some innovative archery training devices, check out our training bows.