Archery has been one of the most important inventions in history. Though today it is practiced primarily as a sport, archery formed nations (and destroyed some others). Once it was adapted to warfare, generals and kings demanded their citizens be trained at archery to be ready at a moment’s notice if other armies invaded. Once their archers took to horseback, they became lethal weapons which made invading armies think twice.
Archery has seen a recent revival across the world, including in pop culture through expert sharpshooter Katniss Everdeen (on our list) from The Hunger Games. It continues to be a fixture at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. In fact, the 1992 Olympic torch was lit by a flaming arrow fired from a Paralympic archer. The archery facts on this list aren’t your run of the mill facts – they span the history, culture, and significance of archery – from thousands of years ago to this very decade. Archery has significantly shaped our world – physically via warfare and hunting and allegorically via legends of famous sharpshooters such as the Greek god Artemis and do-gooder Robin Hood. Set your sights on this list of 25 Archery Facts That Hit The Bullseye.
A strong Paralympic history
The first official Paralympic Games were held in Rome in 1960. Eight sports debuted, including archery. Though the sport began for veterans with World War II spinal cord injuries, it has opened up over time to include all athletes. (Other sports at the first games included wheelchair fencing and table tennis.)
Archery is the national sport of Bhutan, a mountainous Himalayan country just north of India. Almost every village has an archery range, but, since it’s a Buddhist country, archery is only for sport.
Pulling a "Robin Hood"
Famous do-gooder Robin Hood was reputed to be an expert at the bow. Legends of the bowman have become so popular that splitting an arrow with another is now referred to as a Robin Hood.
Archery in astrology
The astrological sign Sagittarius is named after its constellation of the same name (not to be confused with the constellation Sagitta, “the arrow”). This Zodiac sign is depicted as a centaur pulling back on a bow, ready to fire its arrow.
Archery began in Ancient Babylon and Egypt as a hunting tactic but was soon adopted in warfare. Once it spread to Asia and the Middle East, its purpose broadened into sport.
Mounted archery – the use of bows and arrows while atop a mount such as a horse – gained prominence during the Iron Age. It was a much more efficient killing method than the chariots used during the Bronze Age.
Archery gets an upshot
It took centuries for archery to advance beyond its basic roots. In the early 20th century, a group of scientists and engineers used high-speed photography to analyze different bow and arrow designs. The culmination was the 1947 book “Archery: The Technical Side” which led to new innovations such as fiberglass bows and making the bow grip more like a pistol handle.
Landing on the line
When an arrow hits the line between two circles, points are awarded for the higher score. This situation is called a line breaker.
A toxophilite is the name for an archer, coming from the Greek words for “lover of the bow”. Toxophily is the study of archery and Toxophilus was the first book written on archery, in 1545 by Roger Ascham.
Hitting the bullseye
Though archery may look easy to the uninitiated, scoring within the central gold ring is the equivalent to hitting a beer coaster – seven bus lengths away.
Archery in mythology
Archery has long been featured in the mythology of many cultures, from the gods Artemis and Apollo for the Greeks to Osoosi for the West African Yorubas to Arjuna and Shiva for the Hindus.
The first Olympic archery targets
Archers participating in the 1900 Olympic Games used live pigeons as targets.
A sacred sport
Archery was revered so highly in Ancient Tahiti that it was considered a sacred sport; only high-ranking Tahitians were allowed to play.
Which hand archers shoot with
Archers shoot with their dominant eye, not their dominant hand. Thus, even if an archer is right-handed, he/she may shoot with their left-hand.
The Six Noble Arts
Archery was one of the Ancient Chinese’s Six Noble Arts: the basis of education which also included mathematics, music, and charioteering. Men who perfected the six arts were known as a junzi: “a perfect gentleman”. Over the past few years, archery has experienced renewed popularity in China.
The banning of archery
Legend has it that King James II banned the sport of golf in Scotland in 1457. Why? He thought men were wasting time playing golf when they could instead be practicing their archery skills. Over a century before, King Henry VIII decreed all men had to practice their archery skills after Sunday church service.
With the rise of guns, the use of bows and arrows has declined in hunting. A new field of archery, 3D archery, forgoes the old weapons and has hunters fire at life-sized animal models.
If 3D archery wasn’t cool enough on our list of awesomely accurate archery facts, have you heard of ski archery? While skiing cross-country, archers shoot at targets along the trail while slaloming.
Modern-day archery has become quite advanced. Nowadays, archers can choose from electronic sights which help them hone in on a target, stabilizers which dampen user movement while shooting, and compound bows where the string’s tension is achieved through a system of pulleys.
Most archery competitions require a sharpshooter to carve or engrave their name into their arrows.
A long bowman in the Middle Ages could fire an arrow every five-to-six seconds. That’s a rate of up to 12 arrows per minute! This skill helped England trounce the French at the Battle of Crecy (1346) where 2,000 French soldiers were killed compared to 50 Englishmen. It seems the kings’ insistence on archery really took off.
The French make up for their losses
The French blame their defeat at the Battle of Crecy on leaving their crossbows out in the rain. They’ve since learned their lesson and are now the country which has competed the most times in Olympic archery.
Lighting the Olympic torch with a flaming arrow
Antonio Rebollo, a Spanish Paralympic archer, lit the Olympic flame at the 1992 Olympics Games in Barcelona by firing a flaming arrow into the cauldron.