It’s been a year now since I started blogging for Legend Archery and it is still gives me pleasure to have an opportunity to share my stories about archery with the world. My first post covered quivers and the reason I choose that as my first post is because I find quivers to be a remarkable invention that is also the bow and arrow’s best friend. For this post I decided to find out more about quivers. This is because I have recently been taking a look at the history of archery quivers for my own personal project. But that’s another story. Let’s have a run down on that quiver on our person, at the moment there are six distinct types of quiver.
Now when I first looked at quivers I covered the types that were used in modern target archery and how practical they are for modern target archers. However there are more different designs of quivers than I originally thought. Let’s start with the back the back quiver. Last year Danish archer Lars Andersen became an internet sensation on You Tube when he showed the world some interesting stories about master archers who could perform incredible feats of archery. Among these things included a story about the back quiver. As Lars found from his practice a back quiver was mostly useless when it came to moving fast. As these archers had to travel and hop foot from each target and then draw their arrows the quiver couldn’t carry the arrows adequately. They were not held in place inside the quiver and as he jumped from a height and landed the arrows just went straight out of the quiver. Also the fletchings would often get caught in branches as he navigated through the trees. This convinced Lars that Hollywood invented the myth that the back quiver was the most common type of quiver used by historical archers. As an archer myself I can see how some truth in that. I’ve used a back quiver in the past and drawing arrows from a back quiver isn’t that simple. When you draw an arrow from a back quiver you have to reach behind the feel the arrow, grab it by the nock and pull it out. But to do that you would have to stretch your arm so far for the arrowhead to clear the quiver and sling it around to the bow to nock. That is quite difficult to do whether you are shooting static or on the move.
There is a lot of scepticism to Lars Andersen’s archery and in particular the stories of the back quiver in his video. He rebuked their claims with a follow up two months later. He explained that although they did carry back quivers in the past they were not as common as people think. If anything they would have used the back quiver in some circumstances but they had to alter the way in which they used the back quiver. The back quiver was commonly used by the native people of North America and Africa. It would rarely have been used in medieval Europe in Robin Hood’s time. But still back quivers are quite practical given their awkwardness.
According to expert archers a lot of back quivers have problems where the arrows rattle in the quiver noisily, the arrows easily fall out and the fletching easily gets sheared off. The back quiver that Lars used in his video however was one of a type of back quiver that was produced as a hard shell tube. Some back quivers were made of flexible leather which allows you to pinch it and invert the quiver. This allows the arrows to become locked into the quiver and hence it also prevents the arrows from rattling inside the quiver and falling out. Quivers which are likely to hold the arrows loosely have more attention to aesthetics than functionality. They also tell of a quiver that was used by the Native Americans which could be used as back quiver as well as a side quiver. This has a strap that could allowed it to be worn as a belt to wear around the waist or slung over the shoulder to wear on the back. Both back quivers and side quivers could have been the most common types of quiver but the side quiver was used more often. It just depends on what situation they would have used them.
Belt quivers are also referred to as side quivers and they are the most common type of quiver in all forms of archery. I use one myself as a target archer because it functions as an arrow holder and a tool bag for my archery equipment. These quivers have an advantage over back quivers because they can also carry a bag on the belt as well as the arrow tubes. Belt quivers can be found in many cultures from North America to China and they were the most commonly used quiver in medieval Europe. In these ancient times the quivers were made of leather, wood, furs or other natural materials. Having the quiver on your belt has many advantages when carrying your arrows. With the arrows by your side they can be kept out of the way of your draw by pushing and sliding them around the belt. With the arrows right by your side you can easily spot the arrows to grab and fire them rapidly without making much effort to remove them.
But carrying arrows is just one of two main functions of the side quiver. Archers are also expected to carry equipment to repair and maintain their bows and other accessories for their shooting. Some of these quivers had a small pouch on the arrow tube or a separate bag that was fitted to the belt like a satchel. The items that they would have carried can be anything that would be useful for the archer and the bow itself. For the archer it would be a water bottle, a small supply of food, a hunting tool and a map. For the bow it would be a spare string, a stringer of some kind, a tool, a spare peep sight and something to make arrows with using the branches in the woods, arrow heads, etc.
Nowadays the modern target archers have quivers made out of metal or plastic and special artificial fabrics to make them useable for outdoor and indoor uses. Quivers of this kind use a standardised design that covers the hip and so it is also referred to as a hip quiver. These ones have pouches fitted to the side of the arrow tube and have a smaller pocket at the top where the quiver is attached to the belt. The stuff that I carry in my quiver is enormous enough to make it like a Mary Poppins quiver. With around 10 – 20 pieces of equipment the items therein are an armguard, a finger tab, an Allen wrench, a stringer, a scorecard, an arrow puller, a pair of binoculars (or a monocular), spare nocks, spare vanes, a nock tool, a bracing gauge, a spare sling, string wax, etc. Although some people think of the quiver as a carrier for ammunition it’s a tool box to carry the demands of a powerful sharpshooter and the side quiver does just that.
A ground quiver is used mostly by traditional archers who do not move. These are not useful if you are an archer in motion so you would be likely to use this quiver if you are shooting from a long distance. When I first took up archery I didn’t have a quiver to begin with instead I used a tube that was placed on the ground and I had to reach down to grab the arrows. I found this to be useful enough to hold the arrows for me and since I didn’t need to move it was okay for a beginner archer to use. Some traditional archers still use them in target archery competitions and practice. But their limited usefulness makes them a piece of equipment that appeals to the sort of people who indulge in recreationist events.
An arrow bag sounds like an unusual name for a quiver and it is rarely seen. The only archers that are likely to have used it are medieval English longbow men. Evidence of their existence was found in the wreckage of the Mary Rose in 1987 when the archaeologists found them and compared them to historical records. An arrow is a quiver made of a cloth that is stitched to a leather spacer. The arrows are stored in the spacer and when they are inserted in the quiver they make it look like a large sock. For transportation purposes another cloth is wrapped over the nocks to protect them from damage. An arrow bag uses a carry strap to wear it over the back. When the archer was using it to carry the arrows for shooting they would have removed the nock cover and worn it on their belts.
Bow quivers are a relatively modern invention and are used mostly in hunting archery. The arrows on a bow quiver are perhaps the most silent way to carry arrows. Unlike all the other quivers they hardly rattle and make a noise. This makes bow quivers practically useful for hunters because the rattling of the arrows in a back quiver or belt quiver alerts the archery’s prey. The ultimate method for a hunter to bag his prize is to run silently and so these arrows don’t make a sound. Most bow quivers are made for compound bows which is the bow of choice for hunters. The bow with a quiver fitted makes a one piece construction that doesn’t require two pieces of equipment that encumbers the archer’s body. You don’t have to worry about the arrows getting caught on anything unless you catch your bow on something.
The Japanese had a variety of quivers of their own kind that were unlike anything that has been seen in western traditional archery. One of these called Yebira was a variety of quiver designs and this held the arrows in an extraordinary way. Instead of a tube construction the arrows were held by the tips in a rest and the shafts were held together by a rib that comprises the upper part and keeps them in place. Capable of holding up to three dozen arrows, the Yebira could be found in many different forms and was used for a number of different purposes. Some of them were ornate in design with decorative features and some of them were in plain designs. Yebira are used traditionally in Samurai for combat, hunting and ceremonial purposes in modern day Japan. Another type of Japanese quiver is the yazutsu, which is used in Kyudo. A form of traditional Japanese archery. The yazutsu looks like a plant holder; cylindrical in shape and zippered at the top. Made of cloth or leather and modern ones out of synthetic material. It’s quite long compared to other quivers and that is because the Kyudo Ya (arrows) are quite long. This quiver was used predominately in ceremonial purposes and just used for carrying arrows to the place of practice like the dojo. It didn’t really serve as an ammunition loader for use in combat.