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5. The Male Feather

The discovery of the dhakar, or male feather, is puzzling as well as surprising. On page 232 of the original manuscript—page 111 of this volume—it is clearly defined as a feather placed next to the arrowhead. In translating the passage Dr. Faris has taken the greatest pains and has reviewed his work repeatedly. If the description is true, the feather apparently stands away from the string just as the cock feather does on ordinary tri-fletched arrows, but instead of being fixed in the usual position with relation to the two side feathers-the three standing around the shaft 12o degrees apart-it is far up in front near the head. In this position, one might expect it to be stripped off by any penetrating shot.

Unfortunately, the anonymous author of our book is not as convincing as we could wish him to be, for his statement that "a certain author related that he had seen an expert" use the dhakar implies that he had never tried it himself and was citing from hearsay. Granting, for the moment only, that he was not in error, the sole use for such a vane which comes readily to mind would be for the steadying of a broadhead, which naturally presents more resistance to the air on its flat surfaces than on its sharp edges. Theoretically, such a feather might be expected to counteract sideslip, but all practical archers know that in actual shooting a broadhead goes very straight because the rotation of the arrow does not allow the head to remain in one plane.

However, inasmuch as this book never suggests that there were ever four feathers—the three normal feathers and the dhakar—we feel that it is not justifiable to accept the existence of an arrow fletched with two regular side feathers and a third-to us-abnormal feather near the head, but we believe that somewhere along the line of ancient scribes a description of the position of the cock feather was misinterpreted. Additional evidence is afforded by the fact that in the two other places where the dhakar is mentioned, that is, here on page 75 and on page 130, everything said of it would apply perfectly to a cock feather.

To test the action of an arrow with two side feathers and with another placed near the head, we constructed and shot such a missile. It wobbled and flirted just as we had expected it to do and proved, to our mind, that such an arrangement of fletching is not practicable.