Archery History: The Ottoman Bowcase

A rather unique item found almost exclusively in Eastern Archery is the bowcase.  Think of it as a holster for your bow – one you can either wear or attach to your saddle.  In the old west, the rifle scabbard was an essential piece of kit for the same reason.  The ability to sling a rifle on your horse while keeping it secure and at the same time have it readily accessible is invaluable. Typically they were made as a matched pair with a quiver, as seen above.

The bowcase functions the same way.

Often times, you see archers trying to sling the bow across their chests, or over one shoulder. And while this may be a great way to free up your hands – utilizing a bow case is a great alternative. Some wear the case with the bow pointed forward, others wear it pointed back. Our rule is that if you’re spending more time on foot – have it pointed forward for control and as to not run into things or people. If you’re on horse, rear-facing is generally better.

A 17th century example from the Istanbul Museum, showing the matching nature of the quiver, bowcase and belt setup:

Generally they were made from a relatively stiff, thin leather covered in a decorative material like velvet or embroidered fabric. The set above is the latter. The back side of both pieces is bare leather to help with wear and tear associated with war and riding.

The quiver is typically integrated into the belt, whereas the bowcase is tied to the belt by two cords. That way it is easily removed in case of emergency or if it needs to be attached to the saddle.

From a war perspective, having the bow pointed back would indeed make it easier to swing a sword or mace and not hit your bow while it was slung. The same idea is used for our mounted archery quivers.

Historically, we see both uses. Attached to the rider and attached to the saddle. In this image – Sultan Murad II practicing at the qabac, wearing his red bowcase on the left hand side:

And another with Beyazid II; though his seems to be floating (and the quiver set behind the bow case being the same color is confusing) – it would be at minimum attached to the belt with two points:

And finally, the rider in black using a shoulder draw, bowcase on the belt. The rider in blue appears to have lost his bow and is instead using a two handed hammer. But the image shows the bowcase predominantly on the left side, attached to the belt, facing rearward.

All in all, the bowcase is a fantastic accessory and typically overlooked here in the west. Everyone needs a quiver, but few know about its partner – a matching bowcase. The Flying Hun has been producing custom bowcases for a few years, but recently has been producing matched sets to accompany their custom quivers.

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