Viking bow and arrow

Viking Bow and Arrow Facts and History

What is the first thing that many people think of when they hear the word Vikings? Their weapons, right? Though the Vikings are often associated with swords and shields, they also used other tools for defense. The bow and arrow was a standard tool among the Vikings used during battles and hunting.

In this article, we will discuss the Viking bow and arrow in detail and give you facts regarding how they used this tool. We will also talk about the structure of the arrow and bow, the size, and the materials used to create this Viking tool. You will learn how the bow and arrow were essential to the Vikings by the end of the post. Read on!

What is the Viking Bow and Arrow?

The bow and arrow have existed for centuries. Various groups, including the Vikings, used this tool for different purposes. The arrow and bow that the Vikings used was a ranged weapon or tool that was made up of a shafted projectile and a launching device.

The arrow and bow was a crucial tool that was not only used during battles but also during hunting. They liked this weapon during the battle since it enabled them to target enemies from a distance and still keep safe. The Vikings also had decorated arrows that accompanied the bows.Viking Bow and Arrow history and facts

The Viking Bow and Arrow history and facts

The Vikings used bows and arrows from the 8th century. The common type of bow that many people used was the longbow during this period. They created self-bows that they used in battles.

Evidence suggests that the Vikings also used recurve bows that were similar to those used in Asia and Europe. Since using longbows on horseback or in a dense forest was challenging for the Vikings, they used the recurve bow, which offered advantages in such situations due to its design.

Some of the poetic historical stories mentioned Viking archery. For instance, The Njals saga recounts events in 1020. In this saga, Gunnar, a fierce warrior, defended himself from an enemy in his home using an arrow and bow. He managed to kill more than ten of his opponents from the loft of his house using his bow and arrow before one of the attackers cut his bowstring.

The Vikings also used bows and arrows in another battle at Vigrafjordur, described in the Eyrbyggja saga. During the nautical battles, men fired arrows from one ship to another. The Vikings used bows and arrows to threaten their enemies.

The Vikings used to bury the dead with their tools, artifacts, and weapons. Archeologists discovered bows and arrows in the lands where former Vikings used to raid. Viking raids were common between the 8th and 9th centuries. In 1932, a site was excavated, and the Ballinderry bow and other artifacts were recovered.

Archeologists did not find any evidence that showed that the Vikings used crossbows. Though this type of bow was famous in the late Viking age, it was not common in Scandinavian regions.

Did Vikings Use Bow and Arrows?

We mentioned that bows and arrows were common tools among the Vikings. They used this tool for hunting and during battles. Archeologists discovered different buildings and fortresses with Viking arrowheads embedded near the gates and walls. This is proof that the Vikings used bows and arrows.

Researchers discovered a Viking’s grave with a thumb ring made from bone. The thumb ring was a helpful feature in the Viking bow that could protect the thumb during a war. The arrow and bow were popular during the Viking age. According to historical records, the Viking arrows were so strong that they could pierce armors, split shields, and penetrate their enemies’ helmets.

The Vikings also used bows and arrows during siege warfare. They destroyed their enemies’ properties using flaming arrows. During their trips to Asia and Eastern Europe, the Vikings had contact with the recurve bow. The earliest evidence of the use of arrows and bows in the Viking era was discovered in Denmark. Researchers believe that the upper warrior class used these bows and arrows.

During wars, the use of arrows and bows enabled the Vikings to defeat their enemies even when they were fewer than their rivals. Though the Vikings used these tools, this was not their primary weapon since they also depended on others, such as swords. Since recurve bows lacked precise technological innovations, the Vikings mostly depended on the longbows.

The structure of the Viking bow and arrow

The structure of the Viking bow and arrow

Like different cultures, the Vikings had certain styles of bows and arrows. They created simple bows and arrows that everyone could use without going through a learning curve. The parts of the Viking bow were subdivided into different sections. Some of the parts available in the Viking bow included the following.


One of the things that made the Viking bow unique was the lack of swelling around the handgrip area. No evidence suggests that the Viking bow had a separate handgrip that they attached to this tool. The bow grips represented the part designed for a hand to grip. The Viking bow also consisted of a stave to which the string would be attached. This ran parallel along the bow’s length.


The nock was designed to attach the string to the limbs. The Viking bow was either made up of single or double nocks. They also referred to the single nock as a side nock. In a single nocked bow, the Vikings cut notches on the opposite sides of the stave. The Viking bow also came with another set of nocks that was referred to as stringing nocks. This was a groove at the tip of the limb that helped string the bow.


Apart from the nocks, the Viking bow also featured reflexed and deflexed terminals. Some Viking bows contained bent terminals after the nocks. A reflex bow had the pivot point in front of the hand. There is also evidence of bows with terminals binding towards the shooter. Such bows were referred to as deflexed bows. They added the bent terminals to certain Viking bows only for decorative purposes.

What are the bows and arrows usually made of

What are the bows and arrows usually made of?

The Vikings made their bows from different types of wood, such as elm, yew, and ash. Archeologists discovered Viking bows in Denmark that were made from elm and date back to 2800 BC. They made longbows using yew wood since it was strong and elastic.

A yew tree has two layers, including the dense heartwood and the sapwood. The Vikings used heartwood to make the inner part of the bow and sapwood to make the outer part. They also used hardwood to make the shafts and horns and iron to strengthen their bows.

They also used wood and horn to make the bow nocks. The strings of longbows were made from flax. Apart from wood and horn, the Vikings also used other materials to make their bows, such as sinew.

On the other hand, the Viking arrows came in the form of arrowheads. The Vikings used iron and pine shafts to make their arrows. They decorated the ends of their arrows with feathers. While some of the arrowheads were sharpened, others were barbed.

What bow and arrow size did the Vikings use


What bow and arrow size did the Vikings use?

During the 11th century, the Viking bows were five feet tall. By the 15th century, the Vikings used longer bows around six feet. The estimated weight of the Viking bow that was used during the 10th century was 90lbs. The recurve bows were more than 100 lbs.

The size of the arrows that Vikings also used varied. For instance, researchers found a short arrowhead around 12 cm long, which dates back to the 10th century. More Viking arrows were found in Iceland, which had a length of between 10 and 15 cm. Most Vikings’ shafts were between 70 and 80 meters and 10 mm in diameter.

We mentioned a ring that was discovered in one of the Viking graves that dated back to the 19th century. This was a large ring that was about 1.5 inches in diameter.

How important is the bow and arrow for the Vikings?

The different archeological findings prove that bows and arrows played a significant role in the lives of Vikings. Since archeologists discovered most bows and arrows in their homes, they were essential for protecting the households from intruders. The Vikings also depended on bows and arrows while hunting for food. They also used longbows at the beginning of wars to weaken the enemy’s defenses.


The Vikings are known for being some of the most powerful warriors. They used different weapons when approaching battle, including bows and arrows. They also used these tools in their households. Though the Viking bows have decomposed over time, Archeologists have been uncovering some of the bows and arrows that they used. So, the next time you encounter an arrow and bow during sports, you will have an idea of the type that the Vikings used.