Faithful reader Don Ballard asks: "Who Holds the World Record in Pulling Back a Longbow? Tell us about him.
For more than 50 years the accepted world record was held by Howard Hill at a little over 170 pounds. Pip Bickerstaffe, who makes heavy "warbows+," encouraged a lad named Mark Stretton (in the photo pulling back a 150 pounder) to challenge this mark. The story of Mark's training is typical. I can't find any details on Mark's size, but from many photos, I judge him as much larger than my 5' 10", 175 pounds and younger than my 58 years. My guess would be 6 feet, 215 pounds, 35 years old. I will see if I can find out. Update January 6, 2006, according to Pip, Mark is 5' 10" and 18 stone (252 pounds) and about 38 years old.
The recognition of Mark's accomplishment is referenced by Bickerstaffe
It is interesting that strength alone is not all that is needed to draw back a strong bow. I can bench press only about 180 pounds, whereas some of my football player students can bench press 360 pounds and yet not pull as strong a bow as me. What typically happens is that these strong fellows get better and better quickly as they try pulling the bow more. It appears that your body needs to learn how to most effectively pull the bow.
+Longbows of greater than 80 pounds pull were usually called warbows. The reason being that they were only used in war because they could shoot an arrow hard enough to penetrate armor. If one wanted to hunt a deer or even a bear a 65 pound bow is more than adequate.
The strength of the bows in the English middle ages is hotly debated and many legends abound. I believe the typical warbow was 80-100 pounds. I have shown, with experiments at Dartmouth, that at least 80 pounds is needed for the arrow to penetrate armor. Yet, on the high side, my studies suggest that men were smaller an weaker then, so claims of 140 pound bows, I think are incorrect. The few bows that exist from 1300 to 1500 are less than 100 pounds.