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Chapter V
On methods of drawing and loosing the arrow
Part 2 of 2

There remains one other principal form of loose, which is almost, if not quite, as efficient as the Mediterranean. Professor Morse has named it Mongolian, because it is universally used by tribes of Mongolian origin, though it is not confined to them. In this loose the string is drawn by means of the first joint of the thumb, the fingers being arranged in different manners in various modifications of the loose. The first and second finger giving some little assistance to the thumb.

Professor Morse considers that this loose is not in any way derived from those hitherto dealt with, but is entirely independent in origin. It is a little curious that this loose is generally associated with the use of the composite bow, though not invariably. It is, however, a somewhat complicated method, and it seems improbable that it was an original conception. Just as the composite bow probably

was developed from man's desire to improve the plain how, so it seems likely that the Mongolian loose was naturally developed from the primary.

69, 70. Mongolian loose
69, 70. Mongolian loose

When man began to make bows too strong to be drawn by the primary method, he could improve his method of drawing in two directions, either of which implied the previous invention of the nock at the butt end of the arrow. He could cither employ his fingers to assist in drawing the string, discarding the thumb, and so work: up to the Mediterranean form, or he could discard the forefingerùthe weaker of the pair originally employed and use his thumb. This method requires the arrow to be placed to the right of the bow (for a right-handed man), which, again, suggests the point of departure being the primary loose, as in that method only can the arrow be used indifferently on either side of the bow.

In the Mediterranean loose a glove is commonly used on the drawing hand, which has been reduced by modern archers to the minimum in the form of little leather tips for the first joint of the three drawing fingers. In the Mongolian form a ring is used on the thumb, the string being caught by the edge of the ring in most cases.

69, 70. Mongolian loose
71. Chinese drawing ring (Morse)
72. Drawing ring from Asia Minor (Berlin Museum)
73. Drawing ring from a Nilotic tribe (Berlin Museum)

These rings are of various materials, such as horn, metal, jade, and so forth. Some are set with jewels, and are of great value. ' The Japanese, who must always do things in a different way from their neighbours, have concocted a glove with a monstrous thumb-like the thumb of a boxing glove, but harder and stalls for the first two fingers.

74. Japanese shooting glove
74. Japanese shooting glove
(Coll. C. J. Longman)

The Assyrians appear to have practised various forms of loose, notably the primary, the secondary, and the Mediterranean, both with two fingers and with three. In the earlier sculptures the primary form is perhaps the commonest, though the Mediterranean form is frequently shown. Professor Morse has noted the curious fact that the archers shooting to the right as one faces the picture mostly use the primary loose, and those shooting to the left use the Mediterranean, that is to say, when the back of the drawing hand is shown the loose is generally primary, and when the palm is towards the looker-on it is as commonly Mediterranean. This rule is not invariable, however, and probably no sound deduction can be drawn from the sculptures on this point, except that both forms were in use; and the same holds good in Egyptian and Greek works of art. In none of these three nations does the Mongolian, or thumb- loose, appear to have been generally practised, which is some- what curious, as this loose is ordinarily associated at the present time with the use of the composite bow. The ancient Persians, on the other hand, do appear to have used the thumb-loose. The fact that the weak primary loose was not uncommon casts a certain doubt on the power of the Assyrian archers, though it is probable that if it was much practised the holding power of the finger and thumb would be much greater than it is among modern archers, who have abandoned this method altogether. It could not, however, have been so strong as the three-fingered Mediterranean system.

In modern times, and in the middle ages, the Mediterranean loose has been the typical European loose. It is also the loose of the Eskimo. This fact may be worth the attention of ethnographers, as it is not a little curious that this people should use a European loose while their bow is similar in form and structure to that used by Asiatic tribes which use a totally different loose. The North American Indians use the primary and secondary forms. In Asia, including Turkey, the Mongolian loose is mainly practised, except in India, where the Mediterranean form is used at any rate, to some extent. In Africa various looses are used, even the Mongolian in some tribes. Figs. 75 and 76 are very curious drawing rings from the Wutah in Central Africa. This ring is employed in a very curious loose, as it is passed over the hand, and the circular part grasped in the palm, the string being pulled back by the edge of the ring. Fig. 77 represents a still more curious ring, also in the Berlin Museum, which Herr von Luschan tells me is used in much the same way as the Wutah ring, in a great part of the interior of West Africa, between Togo and the Cameroons. It is a drawing ring and dagger combined. Professor Morse puts down the Andaman Islanders as practising the tertiary (classed here as secondary) loose. It appears, however, from Mr. Portman's researches that they practise a variety of the Mongolian and of the Mediterranean as well. Figs. 78 to 81 are from photographs taken by Mr. Portman of natives in the act of shooting. Professor Morse mentions some other eccentric looses, for which the student may he referred to his monograph.

75 and 76. Wutah drawing rings
75 and 76. Wutah drawing rings
(Berlin Museum)
77. Drawing ring and dagger, West  Africa
77. Drawing ring and dagger, West Africa
(Berlin Museum)

A totally different method of drawing the bow appears to have been occasionally practised from ancient times to the present day. It has never been much used, and though it enables a man to draw a very strong bow, it is clumsy and in- effective. The archer sits down, and placing one or both of his feet against the centre of the belly of the bow, pulls back the string with both hands. Unless he lashes the bow on to his feet, or has remarkably prehensile toes, the bow must spring forward when it is loosed, much of the additional power gained must be lost, and the direction and elevation of the arrows rendered quite uncertain. By this method a man, in fact, makes himself into a crossbow, his body and legs representing the stock on which the bow is fixed. It seems possible that this system of drawing the long-bow, which is undoubtedly very ancient, may have suggested the crossbow.

Andaman loose
Andaman loose
Andaman loose
Andaman loose
Andaman looses
(From photographs by Mr. Portman)
Click on an image for a larger version

Sir Emerson Tennant[3] says that the Veddahs of Ceylon shoot in this style when they want to discharge their arrow with great force, and the practice is still known among that curious people. Certainly, anyone who practised this method of drawing the long-bow would soon find the need for a stock on which to fasten the bow, to prevent it springing away when loosed. This subject is outside the scope of the present work, but Mr. Balfour's map, at the end of the volume, of the distribution of the crossbow in ancient and modern times may be studied with advantage, as supplementary to his map on the distribution of the bow.

The distribution is somewhat curious. The weapon is found over a far more restricted area than the ordinary bow, and crops up in parts which are so widely separated as Green-land, Western Europe, Western Africa, China, and Indo-China.

Another system occasionally used is to rest the lower end of the bow on the ground, and grasp it between the big and second toes of the left foot. This method is sometimes used by the Solomon Islanders.