I have heard it said that crescent arrows were used for hunting birds in medieval Europe. I could not find any art or literary evidence for it, though. The art I found for bird hunting generally showed pointed arrows.

Is there any evidence for hunting with crescent arrows?

  • 2
    Welcome to History:Stack Exchange. Thank you for your question; please consider revising it to be more in line with our community expectations. Like many other stacks, we expect questions to provide evidence of prior research. That helps us to understand the question, and avoids our repeating work you've already done. Our help center, and other stacks provide additional resources to assist with revisions. – MCW Jan 11 at 16:23
  • 1
    See Tod's Workshop as one source. There are a few others. – MCW Jan 11 at 16:23
  • 1
    @MarkC.Wallace Ironically, Todd is one of the sources I heard this from, in his recent video about bouncing arrows off water. More ironically, he pointed out in that video you linked about how people hear things without actually knowing the primary evidence. He did mention something about art for the arrows in that video, but not for hunting birds. I can't really give you evidence of me not finding anything from searches, though. I don't really understand the rule, as it suggests if I heard it from hearsay on forums, I wouldn't be allowed to ask if it were true? – Johnny Jan 11 at 18:52
  • 1
    Thinking back... I think the other was Mark Stretton? On his blog he tested the "rope-cutter" arrows on dead turkeys, to test their ability as bird-hunting arrows – Johnny Jan 11 at 18:56
  • 1
    @Johnny Update your question with those sources (with links) you have looked at, don't reply in comments. Comments are merely here to help you create a better question. The arrowhead type certainly seems widespread, with evidence of use in Japan, by the Turks and Mongols, and Medieval Britain. – justCal Jan 13 at 16:11

A pdf article here, Medieval Arrowheads from Oxfordshire, by Richard Wadge has some relevant information for your query.

An image (plate 2) gives us a classification for one type of crescent broadhead, the Jessop H2:enter image description here

The H2 type of crescent or 'forker' broadhead is discussed here (all emphasis mine):

Two examples of the H2 type have been found in Oxfordshire, and are perhaps the oddest looking English hunting heads. One of them was found at Woodstock (see Plate 2). Both heads could have been shot from substantial bows as part of arrows made for repeated use, since they are pierced for retaining pins. The purpose of these heads was almost certainly for shooting birds, particularly large water birds, although they could also have been used for small game like rabbits. A more fanciful suggestion for the design of these heads is that they were used at sea for cutting rigging. While it has proved possible to cut ropes under tension with these heads, the practical likelihood of doing so from a moving ship, given the tendency of these heads to spin slowly, is extremely small. Rabbits, hares, and other animals were also hunted with blunt-headed arrows. A major problem when hunting birds, even large birds, and small game using arrows fitted with small sharply pointed heads like those discussed below, is that the arrow might pass partially through the game without knocking it down, although the arrow shaft might deliver the fatal blow. Pictures have appeared in the national and local press of large waterbirds, such as swans and geese, with pointed crossbow shafts stuck in them, but they were still able to feed, if not to fly. Secondly, arrows with sharply pointed heads are much easier to lose, since they go deeply into brush or can bury themselves in a grassy surface. These big crescent heads would be less likely to do either, because the head would catch on the brush or the ground, leaving the arrow lying on the surface. Since these heads could be fitted with retaining pins, it was more likely that the arrow would be recovered complete and ready for reuse.

So we have agreement by the author of Archery in Medieval England: Who Were the Bowmen of Crecy?, as well as an explanation as to the utility of this type of point for this application.

  • Of related interest, Commodus (according to Herodian) used crescent-tipped arrows in staged hunts of ostriches in the Colosseum. – Lars Bosteen Jan 15 at 7:22
  • Yes, the range of the appearance of this type of arrowhead is interesting. The Mark Stretton Blog article concerning crescent arrowheads, mentioned in comments above investigates this (the ostrich bit). – justCal Jan 15 at 13:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.