The sport of archery makes use of various types of bows and arrows the aim of which is to assist in target shooting. Bows have been existent from as long as 50,000 years ago. It is believed that longbows, a basic type of bow, were even used by the Palaeolithic man to hunt down animals.

The advent of modern machinery has made it easy to carry out difficult tasks like these, and hence, bows have become an uncommon sight. Hubs and rifles have taken up. In spite of these changes, Archery is still practiced as a fun loving sport outdoors and is also a subject of competition in the Olympics. Having said that, longbows and recurve bows are the basic types of bows which are used more than any other type. They have their own differences and similarities which can be analyzed, and the better one can be then decided accordingly.

1. Physical Differences:

Shape: The longbow is pretty much simple in shape. It only resembles one big arc from end to end. It can be compared to one big semi circle or the letter “D” with no complexities involved while framing the design. When the string is plucked, it forms a uniform curve facing towards the archer. The recurve bow, as the name says, has its arc with a dip in the center terminating into two small arcs recurving in the forward direction.

  • Size: Recurve bows are typically smaller in built than longbows. A usual longbow can be as long as up to 6 feet. Its length can be adjusted as per the height and body of the archer. A modern recurve bow can be anywhere between 48 to 70 inches in length.
  • Design: The recurve bow has a cut in the bow itself to facilitate the arrow to take the straight path and not deviate from its target. Such a slit is absent in the longbow. Longbows are comparatively simpler to make. A person with no great experience in wood working can also manage to make a fair function longbow with little expense and no power tools. A roll of fiberglass tape, some wood glue, and a draw knife is all it take to come up with a decent longbow. Modern recurve bows are fitted with various accessories which enable the sight and dampen vibrations to improve the chance of hitting the target.
  • Strength: The longbow, since typically standing taller than the archer by approximately 3 inches, is designed to handle a lot of weight. When tensed, they can be strong enough to draw high weights. These are also known as �war-bows.’ During medieval times, these bows were typically strong enough to shoot an arrow as far as fifty yards. Power and stability were imparted to recurve bows by virtue of their design.
  • Materials: Yew wood was initially used in the making of longbows. They had to be handmade in order to ensure that no flaws or dents or any kinds of imperfections are present in the wood.Recurve bows were originally made with laminated wood and animal hides. Nowadays, both types of bows are made with layered fiberglass, wood, and other synthetic materials. The string is made of linen thread. This makes the bows lighter and stronger and causes less inconvenience during their usage.

2. Functioning:

The longbow needs a little less manpower to function. It works perfectly fine for archers who are stable on the ground and are tall enough to handle the length of the longbow. Remains of the longbow have been discovered in the British Isles which date back to 3000 years. This proves that it has been in use for a very long time.

The recurve bow, however, is an improvised version of the longbow. It was brought into existence to correct a few drawbacks occurring with the longbow. The recurve bow is convenient to use on horseback owing to its smaller size. Using a longbow to shoot a target from atop a tree or chasing a catch hiding under the bushes is next to impossible when longbow is your weapon. Hence, this is the main reason why recurves have gained popularity over longbows in the recent times. One has to be steady on the ground in order to shoot using a longbow which will not give the desired results otherwise.

3. Usage:

The shooting of slings and arrows is much more convenient using the longbow. The basic design has been in use for ages, dating back to several millennia. Its simplicity is the foremost reason why many first-time archers are made to practice on longbows before they move on to recurve or other types of complex bows.

The style of the recurve bow causes the arrow shot through it to move at an impressive speed hitting its target almost instantly. There is a little friction involved when the arrow shoots through the bow which hurt the archer, but with the proper harness and care, this issue can be taken care of. The strength of the recurve bow can be increased by changing the angle of the recurve and causing the arrow to move at an even higher speed.

It is said that Native Americans used recurve bows which had sharp recurve at the end. These bows were dangerous to use without guidance. Their enemies often ended up firing the arrows backward while attempting to use these bows, and hence ended up killing themselves. Longbows prove to be safer since there is less friction and no danger involved.

Longbows are now outdated. They are used to train beginners but not for professional purposes. As of today, Target Recurves stand as the only one allowed in the Olympic Games while longbows can be used in other competitions save Olympic and Paralympic.

Modern accessories such as sights are now available on bows so that they aid in hitting the target at the point. Stabilizers that dampen the effect of the shock when the arrow is released are also fitted in the bows to give it a convenient feel. This also prevents unnecessary movements of the bow while shooting and keeps it unnaturally steady.

4. Similarities between longbow and recurve bow:

Both types of bows are fairly similar in a few aspects such as their basic designs. Both are pretty simple consisting of only a bow and string without any other machinery like pulleys and counterweights. According to one’s preferences and keeping the type of event in mind, both types of bows can be used accordingly. Various competitions or traditional hunting methods still make use of either bow without differentiating between them.


Having said that, both types of bows have their pros and cons. It is very much up to the archer to decide which bow to pick in accordance with the situation. Nowadays, there are plenty of other option available like the compound bow, crossbow, pyramid bow, and other bows with high target precisions. With the advent of the rifle, bows and arrows are seldom used for hunting. The innovation of gunpowder, in the absence of a rifle, saves the day.