Mongolian Archery is a traditional Mongolian sport that has been passed down through the generations. It is said to be one of the oldest sports in the world, and is still practiced today. Mongolian archery is unique in its use of horseback riding and bow hunting.

mongolian man shooting an arrow

The sport is also known for its extreme accuracy, as traditional Mongolian archers are able to hit targets from great distances. Traditional Mongolian archery is a popular sport in Mongolia, and is often used as a way to show off one’s skills.

Mongolian Archery Competitions

Brief History of Mongolian Archery

Archery wasn’t just a primary component of our ancient culture–it was everything. For nomadic tribes, archery was used as the main tool for hunting animals for food and protection from external threats.

From early on, Mongolian elders taught children how to use bows, and it became one of the main tools our ancestors relied on for centuries.

mongolian men with bow in ancient clothes

Archery competitions were a popular form of entertainment among the Mongols, both at the Khan’s court and in nomadic camps.

Although most archery competitions were banned during the Manchurian reign due to their military implications, some managed to survive. This showcases the strength and vitality of Mongolia’s ancient tradition of archery.


In the present day, Mongolians participate in archery matches to see who is the greatest marksman. Archery tournaments are divided into age groups. When children are aged 2 or 3, they start shooting.

This year, a 78-year-old man was crowned the oldest Mongol archer, while a three-year-old boy took home the title of youngest archer. Archers claim that there are no age restrictions when it comes to archery; you can shoot as long as your strength allows it.

mongolian man about to shoot an arrow

In Mongolia, around 20-30 archery competitions are organised each year, including a national championship.

The biggest event is the Naadam festival which features three main traditional sports: Archery, wrestling and horse racing. These games have been deeply ingrained in Mongolian culture for many centuries.

Mongolians don’t fire at round, colored targets with a bullseye in archery competitions like you might imagine. Instead, they shoot at small leather cylinders called hasaa that sit on the ground.

In the center of the stack of hasaa are red hasaa which act as central targets. The idea behind it was that the row of baskets representing a man lying down on the ground andred baskets were his head; meaning success would be hitting even one red hasaa–though there’s no high-score cylinder.

Different types of Archery

At the event, archers participate in three categories while wearing traditional attire. The target distance varies depending on the bows and arrows utilized, as well as the number of competitors per category. They are:

  • Buriad (both men and women compete and the distance of the target is from 30 to 45 meters.)
  • Uriankhai (only for men and the distance is 30 or 40 meters.)
  • Khalkh ( the national title-winning style where the distance of the target is the furthest.)

The Naadam festival features archers from all over Mongolia, with nearly 300 of them on average. So you can imagine how spectacular a spectacle it is!

Archery is hard in general, but Uriankhai archery style is considered one of the hardest. In order to get points, men should hit target balls made by a leather strap called “chikh” that weigh 350-400 grams.

The target distance for Uriankhai archers specifically is 40 meters. Once you’ve hit the ball, it should then roll over a 20 cm small mound of soil behind the aligned balls.

In Buriad and Khalkh archery, there is no gender discrimination- both sexes can compete. The female target distance in Buriad archery is 30 meters, but 65 meters in Khalkh archery; whereas men shoot from 45 meters in Buriad archery and 75 meters in Khalkh archery.

The archery competition during the Naadam is quite special. In fact, those who place in the top three for Khalkh Archers receive a state marksman or markswoman title from none other than Mongolia’s President– but only during the Naadam.

On these days, all participants gets dressed up in traditional costumes and hats; further, their ranking within the competition can be determined by the number of yellow strips present on their red ribbon hatband.

Mongolian Archery Techniques

Mongolian Archery is unique as it employs a thumb draw technique rather than the index finger draw that is more commonly used. This means that the Mongolian bowstring is held by the thumb and first two fingers, with the arrow positioned on the side of the hand.

This grip gives Mongolian archers greater accuracy and power when shooting.

Archery techniques are not the only important aspect of bowhunting – Mongolian bow themselves are just as essential.

In the past, each warrior used to carry two bows: one for long-range shooting and one for close combat. Mongolian bows were constructed of ten distinct materials, including birch bark, fish glue, bamboo, deer antlers, natural silk threads, and animal tendons.

They were able to hit opposing forces with salvos of arrows while being out of range themselves because of the longer-range bow’s design.

To properly aim while riding a horse, Mongolian archers would release their arrows when all four of the horse’s hooves were in mid-air. Another common technique was to shoot smaller volleys of poison-laced arrows as they rode towards their enemies in waves before quickly retreating out of range.

Depending on the usage, different types of arrows were manufactured with various combinations of quivers. The most powerful ones could pierce thick armour and had metal tips 15 cm long and 3.5 cm wide.

Some were meant for short range, some for long range travel, some were double-tipped, and others were designed to be set aflame.

The whistling arrows, which had holes in the tips that produced a whistling sound while in flight and scared enemies, are considered among the most creative arrows in archery history.

They were also effective as a hunting tool since the high-pitched whistle of an arrow shot far into the air might distract an animal, causing it to look up with interest, allowing the hunter ample time to fire a more potent arrow to bring down the stationary prey.

Horse Archers

mongolian female horse archer

Mongolian horse archers were the most feared warriors of their time in Mongol Army. The Mongol empire was built and maintained by a mobile army of skilled horsemen who were masters of archery, mounted warfare, and guerilla tactics.

Horseback archery was utilized in Mongolia for hunting, keeping livestock, defending the tribe from external dangers, and warfare. Horseback archery helped create a highly mobile warrior who could swiftly move around the battlefield and attack his opponents.

It was one of the defining features of the Mongol Army – a formidable weapon with quick acceleration and velocity that accompanied them on their conquests as they created what became known as the world’s largest contiguous land empire.

Mongolian horses were smaller than average, but they were extremely hardy and could cover vast distances quickly. Mongolian horsemen were able to fire arrows while galloping at full speed, a feat that was considered impossible by other cultures.

Nowadays, Mongolian boys begin riding horses at age three. By age five, if they wish, they can begin shooting arrows from horseback and hunting small game. Hunting has always been an integral part of the training for Mongolian archers and warriors.

There are several types of horse archery games, all of which involve riding and shooting arrows from a bow.

The 2019 Spirit Mongolia Open Horseback Archery Tournament, held at the Chinggisiin Khuree Tour Camp in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia included a game where riders competed to see who could shoot a target as many times as possible while riding quickly along a set distance.

The scores reflected the metrics of speed, accuracy and number of arrows fired.

One of the skills prized most in horse archery is being able to shoot the target that’s behind you after your horse has run past, and this requires a 180 degree rotation of your body.

Since using a bow requires the rider to let go of the reins with both hands, horse archers need superb equestrian skills if they are to shoot on the move.

The Mongols of vast grasslands were known for using horse archery for hunting, defending their flocks, and warfare.

Horse archery was essential for many communities since it offered everyone a basic survival knowledge as well as allowed each able-bodied person to become highly mobile in case of need.

With a horseback bow, speed is enhanced with accuracy – the rider must release both reins with both hands while shooting on the move, which necessitates excellent equestrian ability.

Frequently asked questions

How far could the Mongols shoot arrows?

Mongolians could shoot an arrow up to 350 yards.

Are Mongolians good at archery?

Mongolian Archery is a popular sport in Mongolia, and Mongolians are known for their accuracy and skills in archery.

Hello. My name is Anujin. I was born and raised in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. I am senior writer at CorrectMongolia, where I share the culture , tradition of my country.

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