A large bow drawn by hand and shooting a long feathered arrow. It was the chief weapon of English armies from the 14th century until the introduction of firearms.
— Dictionary.com

Dictionary.com may define a longbow with the definition above, but any archer would agree the weapon has grown far beyond these parameters. While today's longbows have a direct connection with history, the weapon has evolved to be as subjective as the shooter. 

Longbows are now available in a variety of lengths, poundages, and designs, including:

  • English warbows
  • American flatbows
  • Howard Hill or "D-style" longbows
  • Back-set longbows
  • String-follow longbows
  • Reflex/Deflex (or "hybrid") longbows

Just to name a few. The reality of the matter is that longbows are as unique as the archers shooting them, and since no two archers are alike, no two longbows are alike.

So what is the universally agreed upon longbow definition?

There isn't one. 

A better question is how the Michigan Longbow Association defines a "longbow". This is an important question to ask considering the charter of our organization and the benefits we give our members for choosing this style of bow.

Since the bow is constantly evolving in design the MLA has never committed the definition to writing, but the unwritten and accepted definition is as follows:

A longbow, as defined by the Michigan Longbow Association, is a bow of varying lengths and poundage whose string does not make contact with the belly of the limb when strung, save for at the tip where it is looped.
— MLA Council

Your bow will need to fit this definition in order to be shot at our events. The only exception being children under the age of 16. 

However, those who have shot a longbow will agree that we won't have to twist your arm to make the commitment. Longbows are special bows that offer many advantages to the traditional archer. They are forgiving, quiet, and extremely smooth of cast. Not to mention the "cool factor". Robin Hood shot one of these things.

Try one and you'll see what all the fuss is about.

If you'd like to learn more about the longbow, the different styles, and the history, the Longbow Archers site is a fantastic start. There are plenty of books and resources available on the subject, including "The Crooked Stick" by Hugh D. Soar.