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History of Archery & Competition

history of archery
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Fun Fact: An expert at archery is sometimes called a toxophilite.

Fun Fact: The word archery is derived from the word arcus, a Latin term. Arcum et sagitta, which also derives from Arcus, means bow and arrow. Today Archery is mainly associated with competition and target shooting activity. However, if you read the history of archery you will know that it’s not always been like this. Archery in the earlier years is the old practice of Bow and Arrow.  

The bow gave prehistoric human beings an effective method for hunting on earth, providing necessary safety, food, and raw materials such as bone, sinew, and hide. Since then, archery has played a vital and prominent role in many of the world’s civilizations. Many of these civilizations were considered progressive, and the success was attributed to their advancement to the use of bows and arrows. The manufacturing standards were also a sign of status and superiority amongst the elite nations. As mentioned this new tool was a superior and safer way to hunt for essential foods and to fend off attacks by wild animals around villages and while out hunting. Later on, the bow and arrow also became an important part of warfare. 

The books on the history of archery indicate archer soldiers were the first to be deployed in wars, shooting their bows and arrows from distance. The arrows would inflict maximum damage without the need for physical contact. Armies with highly trained archers with the latest bows had a distinct advantage over their enemies and the precision of their arrows would inflict significant damage without the high risk of losing men. The more accurate the aim of the archers the more it would strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.

Fun Fact: Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and its people are passionate to the extent that more than 30 percent of adults own a bow and arrows and live local to an archery range.

Around 3000 B.C. the Egyptian people are thought to be the first to use the bow and arrow in battle. These bows which were made by the king’s craftsman came to be known as the composite bow. Being the pioneers of this new tool, it gave the early Egyptians a distinct advantage in battles. Approximately 1000 years later the Egyptian Assyrians developed a more advanced bow for warfare which was efficient in handling and superior in power. This bow was known as the recurve bow. The recurve bow was famous for being shorter in size to increase the speed of pull as well as more efficient maneuverability.

Later on, from there around 1200 B.C. an Egyptian pharaoh innovated a new concept for his bowmen by putting them on chariots. This made the kings’ archers highly mobile, deploying their bow and arrow skills with immense speed and mobility. 

 Moving on from the Egyptians, In China, archery dates back to the Shang dynasty around 950 B.C. There are numerous archeologist discoveries of the Crossbow being used by Chinese clansmen around 600 B.C. Again the primary use of the crossbow was battle. Then a few hundred years down the timeline the Persian empire became famous for their use of the bow and arrow. They would mount a horse and shoot arrows while turning or looking backward.

After this period in the history of archery, the gunpowder and the rifle began to emerge as a more viable weapon. To many Empires, the bow and arrow were too simple compared to the new rifle, which had a longer range, greater penetration, and speed. Although archery was no longer the preferred method of hunting and war, it eventually developed into a sport and enjoyable pastime. 

Competitive archery through organized tournaments can be have its roots traced back to England. These tournaments were common and often part of community festivals and many events would have an archery range set up specifically for the occasion. During the 17th century in England, there were mainly 3 types of archery that were common and field archery, target archery and 

Roving archery is the previous name of modern field archery. In fact you will often get commentators still mentioning the term ‘roving’ during field archery competitions. Its predecessor is now called modern field archery, grew out of casual hunting with bow and arrow. Many people took their bow and arrows and created competitive friendly environments in their own backyards and surrounding fields. This led to growing interest. Self introduced targets of various shapes and sizes, simulating a variety of animals and objects, they would shoot at unknown ranges over rough ground, not a prepared course. 

Butt shooting, the historical term of Olympic target archery, bowmen aimed at targets that were mounted on earthen butts at ranges of 100 to 140 yards. In clout shooting, the target was usually a piece of canvas,

about 18 inches across, with a wooden peg in its center. Arrows are shot high into the air and then descends on the target, which lies on the ground rather than being a mounted upright target. 

Two brothers, J. Maurice and William H. Thompson were huge archery enthusiasts and worked hard to establish the sport. They worked on strategies to increase awareness and popularity to establish it in mainstream sports. This led to them succeeding in creating the National Archery Association and competition. Since then, the technical requirements and functions of archery have undergone significant change. High-tech fiberglass, carbon graphite, and aluminum bows now replace traditional wood bows. Even with this significant change to the design, the enthusiasm and excitement of the sport remains huge and has incorporated women and younger archers. Hence it is enjoyed by millions of recreational archers worldwide.

In 1900, NAA succeeded with its application and archery became part of the Olympic Games. The National Archery Association, founded in the United States 1979 held its first national tournament in White Stocking Park in Chicago the same year. America’s first archery club was founded in 1828. It was called the United Bowmen of Philadelphia. A significant event in the history of Archery.

Archery was delisted as an Olympic sport in 1920 because the many rules for Archery were not established and standardized across the world. For a long time period, International rules had not yet been developed enough and each host country used its own rules and formats. Due to the insufficient rules and unanimity globally, the sport was eliminated from the Olympic program. The Federation Internationale de Tir l’Arc (FITA) which was founded in Paris int the 1930’s worked relentlessly to make a code of rules for international competition and manage to establish an international standardization of them. However, it was not until 1972 that archery was accepted and relisted into the Olympic games. The standardization of the official target colors and the way the target acres score today was actually created in 1824 by the Prince Regent of England.

Another significant individual and moment in the history of archery is Holless Wilbur Allen was the inventor of the compound bow. Inventor. H. W. Allen revolutionized the archery industry worldwide with the invention and patent of the compound bow in the 1960s. This mechanical bow eased the physical issues related to the traditional bows in terms of draw weight and height.

Modern Archery History Milestones

  • 1934 – The first  Bow hunting season in the USA, held in the state of Wisconsin.
  • 1937 – First recorded use of bow sights in a pro archery competition.
  • 1939 – J. Easton conducts experiments with building arrow shafts aluminum, rather than the traditional wood structure
  • 1941 – L. Hughes, for the first time,  uses aluminum arrows to win the American National Archery Championship.
  • 1942 – The now famous, Hoyt Archery was founded by Earl Hoyt and has a major role in the history of archery modern development.
  • 1946 – Easton produces it’s first trademarked aluminum arrows, the “24 SRT-X”.
  • 1953 – Bear Archery, a huge name in the industry develops and sells its recurve bows. Their previous bows were old-style straight longbows.
  • 1956 – with advanced manufacturing, Hoyt Archery manufacturers and develops the first bow handle known as the pistol grip
  • 1958 – Easton archery develops the aluminum arrow shaft XX75.
  • 1961 – Hoyt Archery develops and introduces the Torque stabilizer component.
  • 1966 – Easton then develops the much-improved d X7 aluminum arrow shaft.
  • 1969 – Holless Wilber Allen, the father, and creator of the compound bow were granted a patent for his designs.
  • 1970 – A year later Compound bows and release aids were first introduced into the competition by U.S. national archery association. 
  • 1971 – Andy Rimo develops the “flipper” rest. Pete Shepley starts the PSE archery company. Flex
  • 1974 – Freddie Troncoso invents the first dual-prong arrow rest.
  • 1982 – Cam wheels on compound bows make their first appearance. Previously wheels were completely round like a normal wheel.
  • 1983 – Easton then develops the first of its kind,  carbon arrow shaft.
  • 1992- The Olympic torch, in Barcelona, Spain is ignited using a flaming arrow shot by Antonio Rebollo of the Spanish Olympic Team. Also, Matt McPherson found the famous Matthews Archery Company, developing bows with scam technology.
  • 1995 – The Compound Bow is included,  for the first time, in the World Target Archery Championship competition.