Longbow Legends: Famous Longbow Archers Throughout History

by | Jun 21, 2023

The Longbow is a type of bow that was first used by early civilizations around the Mediterranean. The English, in particular, became known for their use of the longbow in battles against their enemies. But it’s the famous Longbow archers throughout history that really capture the public’s imagination when thinking of this mighty bow.

It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that the longbow gained widespread use in warfare across Europe.

The longbow was made from a single piece of wood that was anywhere from 4 to 6 feet long.

It was an incredibly powerful weapon and could shoot arrows with enough force to penetrate armour at distances of up to 250 yards. This made it a deadly weapon on the battlefield.

The Importance of Skilled Archers

In medieval times, battles were often decided by the strength and skill of an army’s archers. An army with skilled archers could rain down arrows on their enemies from a safe distance, causing chaos and confusion among their ranks. This would often give their own infantry time to advance and engage in close combat.

Famous Longbow Archers

Skilled archers were also used as assassins or snipers during sieges. They could pick off important targets from afar, such as enemy commanders or gatekeepers, which would help weaken the enemy’s defences.

Among the nobility, skilled archery held great value as a sport and pastime, in addition to warfare. Knights competed against each other in tournaments, utilizing bows and arrows instead of swords and armour.

It’s clear that skilled archery played a significant role in medieval society both on and off the battlefield.

In the following sections, we’ll take a closer look at some famous longbow archers throughout history who demonstrated exceptional skill with this powerful weapon.

Famous Longbow Archers: English Middle Ages

William Tell

When it comes to folk heroes known for their archery skills, William Tell is a name that often comes up. According to legend, Tell lived in Switzerland during the early 14th century when the country was under Habsburg rule.

His legendary accuracy with a crossbow made him famous, and literature and media have retold his story countless times. One of the most well-known tales about William Tell involves a tyrannical Habsburg official who forced him to shoot an apple off his own son’s head.

Despite the risk, Tell managed to hit the target without harming his child. This act of bravery inspired others in Switzerland to rise up against their oppressors, eventually leading to their independence.

While there’s no historical evidence that William Tell actually existed, he remains an important symbol of Swiss resistance and archery prowess. An annual festival called “Tellspiele” is held in Interlaken, Switzerland every year where actors reenact scenes from his legend.

Robin Hood

Arguably, one of the most famous Longbow archers of medieval history is Robin Hood. He gained renown as an outlaw who resided in Sherwood Forest during medieval England, actively robbing wealthy nobles to redistribute wealth among the less fortunate.

Errol Flynn as Robin Hood in 'The Adventures of Robin Hood'

Media has recounted his story in numerous forms for hundreds of years.

Some versions of his story depict him as capable of splitting arrows mid-flight or shooting them through tree trunks – feats that would be impressive even by today’s standards!

While there’s no concrete evidence that Robin Hood was a real person, his legend has inspired countless people over the years.

He’s become a symbol of resistance against tyranny and a champion of the underprivileged. His legacy lives on in literature, theatre, film, and even video games.

Henry V

During the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, King Henry V led his troops to victory at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. One of the key factors in their success was the use of skilled longbowmen.

The French forces heavily outnumbered the English army, but the English had an advantage in range and accuracy, thanks to their longbowmen.

Henry V comprehended the significance of these skilled archers and ensured their thorough training and proper equipment for battle.

Henry V

In fact, it is said that he personally practised archery during his spare time!

These medieval longbow archers all left their mark on history in different ways.

Henry V’s skilled use of longbowmen helped secure one of England’s greatest military successes. Their stories remind us that archery has been important in shaping our world for centuries.

Famous Longbow Archers: The Renaissance

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci is widely known as one of the greatest artists and inventors of the Renaissance period. However, many do not know that he was also an accomplished archer.

Da Vinci designed several innovative bows and arrows in his lifetime, including a repeating crossbow and a bow that could shoot multiple arrows at once.

He believed that the art of archery required both physical skill and mental focus, stating that “archery is not only physical but intellectual.” Da Vinci’s fascination with archery can be seen in his artwork as well.

He painted several scenes featuring archers, such as “The Baptism of Christ” which depicts John the Baptist holding a bow and arrow. In fact, some historians believe that he may have even used a longbow to create some of his famous drawings!

Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was a Japanese general who rose from humble origins to become one of the most powerful figures in Japanese history.

Despite his lack of noble birth, he was an accomplished warrior and strategist who used longbows to great effect in his campaigns.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Hideyoshi’s rise to power began when he became a servant for the powerful Oda clan. He quickly proved himself as a skilled archer and was soon given command of a small unit of longbowmen.

In battle, he would use tactics such as disguising his archers as peasants or hiding them in trees to surprise enemy forces. Eventually, Hideyoshi rose through the ranks and became ruler of Japan, known as the “Great Unifier.”

His skill with a Japanese longbow, a weapon traditionally associated with nobility rather than commoners like him, played a significant role in his success on the battlefield.

Modern Longbow Archers

In the modern era, longbow archery has evolved from its roots as a weapon of war to become a sport, hobby, and form of artistic expression. Three iconic figures in this space are Howard Hill, Fred Bear, and Lars Andersen.

Howard Hill

Howard Hill was an American archer who gained fame in the mid-20th century for his incredible trick shots and hunting skills with the longbow. He won multiple archery championships and set numerous world records for accuracy and distance.

In addition to his athletic achievements, Hill was also a well-known filmmaker who used his bow skills in Hollywood movies such as “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938) and “Tarzan Escapes” (1936).

Howard Hill And Errol Flynn

Hill’s most impressive feats included shooting apples off people’s heads while blindfolded, splitting playing cards 50 yards away, and hitting moving targets such as flying birds or running animals.

He also travelled the world on hunting expeditions where he used his longbow to take down big game such as elephants or tigers. His legacy inspired generations of archers who sought to replicate his daring style and showmanship.

Fred Bear

Fred Bear was an American bowhunter who played a pivotal role in popularizing traditional archery equipment such as recurve bows or longbows. He founded Bear Archery in 1933, becoming one of the leading manufacturers of traditional bows worldwide.

Bear was known for his innovative designs that combined beauty, durability, and performance.

Bear also wrote several books on bowhunting including “The Archer’s Bible” which became a classic reference for aspiring hunters.

He promoted ethical hunting practices that emphasized respect for nature and wildlife conservation. Bear was also a passionate advocate of archery as a recreational activity that could enhance physical fitness, mental focus, and spiritual well-being.

Lars Andersen: Ancient Techniques Revivalist

Not strictly speaking a Longbow archer, Lars Andersen is a Danish archer who gained viral fame in 2015 for his videos showcasing ancient archery techniques such as shooting arrows while running, jumping, or even hanging upside down.

Andersen claimed to have rediscovered these forgotten skills by studying old manuscripts and artwork from different cultures around the world.

His videos sparked debates among archers about the authenticity and practicality of his techniques.

Some criticized him for ignoring modern safety standards or relying on movie-style theatrics rather than real hunting or combat scenarios.

Others praised him for reviving interest in traditional archery methods and encouraging people to experiment with new styles.

Regardless of the controversy, Lars Andersen remains a fascinating figure in the longbow community who challenges conventional norms and inspires creativity.

These modern-day archers represent different aspects of this rich tradition – from skilful marksmanship to innovative design to experimental performance art. Yet they all share a love for this ancient weapon that continues to captivate people’s imaginations today.

Read More: Choosing The Right Longbow: The Ultimate Guide

Related: How To Shoot An English Longbow: A Complete Guide


Throughout history, skilled longbow archers have made significant contributions to their respective societies and armies. They were not only responsible for inflicting heavy losses on enemy forces but also for boosting the morale of their own troops.

From William Tell to Robin Hood, Henry V to Leonardo da Vinci, Genghis Khan to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Howard Hill to Fred Bear and Lars Andersen.

Each of these famous Longbow archers had a unique style and approach that made them stand out from the rest. Their legacy continues to inspire modern-day archers who seek to master this ancient weapon.

It is remarkable how the longbow has stood the test of time as a formidable weapon that requires a great deal of skill and patience. In some parts of the world, traditional hunters or reenactors who seek to relive history still utilize it.

We can appreciate the importance and impact that these famous longbow archers had on history. They played a critical role in shaping events through their bravery and accuracy with this powerful weapon.

Their stories remind us of how one person’s dedication and skill can make all the difference in life. The legacy they left behind will continue inspiring generations to come who wish to master the art of longbow archery.