Watch as This Wyoming Cowboy Shows How to Make a Horn Bow from Start to Finish

One Wyoming cowboy keeps history alive with each and every bow he crafts.

It is amazing how fast we are capable of forgetting. I’m not talking about forgetting where the car keys are (which I misplace almost daily). I’m talking about how fast we forget the knowledge of our grandparents and great grandparents. Rather than our mind being watertight containers holding information, they seem more like sieves holding as much as possible while the rest drains away.

Granted, not all the knowledge of the past is vital to our lives today. I’m sure my grandparents living in western Iowa had certain challenges in their life I’ll never run up against. At the same time, they never needed to know how to navigate the Internet, while today it is almost mandatory. As times change, people seem to have to change with them.

Even though the majority of folks in our fast paced world will forget the skills that sustained their grandparents, there are small circles of people holding onto old knowledge. Think of and Amish farmer and all he knows about traditional farming methods, or what cowboys retain from the Golden Era of the 1800’s.

Today there is also a huge movement of people bringing back Stone Age skills. It’s nice to know that sizable groups of people are stewarding that historical knowledge and give it security moving forward. Sometimes though, certain skills and knowledge are funneled into only a handful of people. Sometimes only a single person holds the torch of knowledge that thousands of generations carried. When they are gone, so is all they know.

This sort of scene is where Tom Lucas and his horn bows enter the picture.

During the pre-European era of Native American history, many tribes in the west adopted the use of the horn bow. Historical records tell us that horn bows were not uncommon, and they made excellent shooters. Like any bow, Native people would have used them to hunt and war with. As time marched on these bows were eventually replaced with black powder rifles, and eventually repeating rifles. The advantages of the gun would simply have been too numerous to overlook. Eventually horn bows, and the process of how to make a horn bow, would become almost obsolete. In fact, the art became almost so lost that when Tom Lucas started making horn bows over 40 years ago he didn’t have any guidance to help him. It seems it was truly a lost art.

Over the years Tom figured out how to make a horn bow, and has breathed life into this ancient art. In this brief video he demonstrates not only the process for building these first-class bows, but also his knowledge gained over the decades. It is worth a watch if you have the time.

As you can tell, Tom comes across as a true-blue and genuine individual. Each bow he makes is a literal extension of the past into the present. Not only that, but the bows are flat out cool.

After doing some browsing around on the web, Tom doesn’t appear to be the only person out there making horn bows. The truth is there are a handful of people scattered about keeping this ancient art alive. They are few and far between though, if not only because the material is difficult to obtain.

Still, it’s nice to know that somewhere, someone is making horn bows. It’s not so much that we’ll need those bows as we move forward into the 21st century. It is more the fact bowyers knowing how to make a horn bow adds richness to our collective body of knowledge. The world would truly be a poorer place if this craft was forgotten.

Understanding historical skills and knowledge isn’t something that makes sense for everyone. Most people will never need to know how to drive a horse and buggy. It just is unnecessary for their lives. On the other hand, it seems important that someone remembers how to drive a horse and buggy, or build a friction fire, or make a horn bow. If only so we can answer the question, “How did they do that?” I suppose it all boils down to truly grasping the importance of history. Learning where you come from can show you where to go.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on building horn bows and the importance of keeping these kinds of skill alive in the comment section below.

Also, thanks for taking the time to read this article about how to make a horn bow. If you like the content you may enjoy this article about why to make a primitive bow quiver.

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