One unique and inevitable part of human culture is archery. All around the globe it exists; bows have been one of, but not limited to the following: a national pastime, a hunting tool, and a weapon of war.
A variety of bows have been designed and utilized throughout all this time: the short bow, the long bow, the horse bow, and the most popular and perhaps the most powerful model used nowadays, the recurve bow.
To curve back from or to curve again are the accepted definitions of the term “recurve.” And when you see how the recurve bow is designed, then you will understand what it means. Imagine the flat wooden planes of traditional bows.
These bend backward by pulling on the bowstring that connects the two ends together. When an arrow is placed against the string, the force of the bow as it straightens again is what shoots the arrow and propels it in a projectile motion.
What makes the recurve bow distinct and powerful, and what separates it from the other bows, are the additional curves at the top and the bottom of the bow that turn away from the archer.
These added curvatures are not for aesthetic purposes; more so to make the bow itself stiffer and more forceful in returning from being drawn to its original shape. As such, and compared to a regular bow of similar size, the arrow that is released from a recurve bow flies with faster speed and greater force.
Recurve bows are, more often than not, composite bows—they are made from multiple layers of material such as horn, wood, sinew and others. Because of advances in technology and manufacturing, other elements such as fiberglass, metal, foam and wood cores, are being incorporated into fabrication.
Specialized makers even separate the bow into three parts that can be assembled, which has several benefits: the core can be made of metal while the top and bottom curves can be made of high quality wood; it can easily be disassembled, carried and stored; the bow can be customized without difficulty; and other benefits.
Some of the finest archers throughout history have been noted to use recurve bows. Both during war and peace, this style of bow was utilized by the Chinese, the Greeks, the Turks, the Mongols, and the Huns. The latter two were most feared with this weapon because they have mastered the skill of using it from horseback. This technique made their cavalry dangerous even at a distance, and it gave them greater power in employing their hit and run tactics.
Odysseus, the Greek hero of the epic Odyssey, was thought to have a recurve bow. When he was gone and was thought dead, his wife tested all her suitors to string his bow. No one but Odysseus, who returned in disguise, was able to do it without standing up.
The best way to string a recurve bow is while sitting down, which is how Odysseus did it and why no one else could not. Yet, it did not mention the specific bow or its design; thus this claim is still being debated.