bowshot, arrow-shot

An informal indication of distance, occurring wherever archery is practiced. Not surprisingly, it often appears in descriptions of distances near city walls, fortifications and the like. A bowshot is a greater distance than a stone's throw.

How long is a bowshot?

Modern bowhunters generally shoot game at a distance of 50 yards or less. The guard towers of the Great Wall of China are said to be spaced two bowshots apart, and they are about 150 yards apart. A competent modern archer, trying for distance, can make 250 yards, but though in battles soldiers have been injured by arrows at such a distance, it seems longer than is generally meant by the word. The longest modern recorded bowshot, made with an especially light arrow, is 391 yards.

On the other hand:

In the Middle Ages archery training was given at Ok Meydani in Istanbul, Turkey. In order to reach the level of expertise known as kabze an archer had to be able to shoot an arrow at least 900 gez (584 meters). An archer who had not achieved this level could neither enter competitions nor practice at Ok Meydani. In the time of Mahmut II, there were 22 famous archers who could shoot an arrow more than 1,000 gez (660 meters). The record was 1,281 gez (845.66 meters).*

*Akbayar et al 1994, page 125.

Margaret Payne.
Urartian Measures of Volume.
Louvain, Paris, Dudley(MA): Peeters, 2005. Page 31.

Perhaps the best way of visualizing a bowshot is as somewhat shorter than the length of a football field (whether American football or soccer).

The Guinness Book of Records 1994 reports a distance record of 6141 feet 2 inches for a bolt shot from a crossbow, but that is not a bowshot.



The people [in the Eastern Dwars, India] have a very vague idea of distance. They are acquainted with the word kos (about 2 miles), but they can never tell how many kos one place is distant from another. The general standard used in expressing distance with them is the time they take to perform a journey; for short distances, they say a place is so many arrow-shots off.

W. W. Hunter, 1879, vol 2, page 128.


W. McLeod.
The range of the ancient bow.
Phoenix, volume 19 (1965), pages 1 – 14.

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