Archery is the practice of using a bow to shoot arrows. The word comes from the Latin arcus, meaning ‘bow’.

Historically, archery was used for hunting and combat, having been invented in the late Palaeolithic or early Mesolithic periods. The oldest signs of archery unearthed in Europe date to around 10,000 BC, while evidence in Asia dates the invention of the bow even earlier.

In modern times, archery is primarily a competitive sport and recreational activity. While the format has changed, the principles of precision, focus, control and repetition remain the same. Archery featured at the Olympic Games in the early 1900s and joined the programme permanently in 1972.

As a sport, archery is accessible to a wide range of people, no matter their age, gender or ability. It is a widespread pastime in both developed and developing countries. Archery is also one of the few sports that can be practised by able-bodied and impaired athletes on a level playing field.



World Archery is the international federation responsible for regulating, developing and promoting the sport of archery. It publishes an official Rulebook, maintains world rankings and organises major events, including the World Archery Championships, Archery World Cup and Indoor Archery World Series.

Modern archers use equipment that complies with official competition categories. The category used at the Olympic Games is the recurve bow. The compound bow is also included at major events organised by World Archery.

Archers practise and compete in various disciplines of the sport. The discipline used at the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, the World Archery Championships and the Archery World Cup is target archery, which is where archers shoot at stationary circular targets set at fixed distances. The disciplines of indoor archery, field archery and 3D archery are also popular.

Para archery is for athletes with a classified impairment.

Getting involved

Starting archery is easy.

More than 160 countries around the world have national federations affiliated with World Archery. These federations are responsible for organising, regulating and promoting the sport within their countries. Most manage a system of clubs or ranges that provide a safe place, educated coaches and the equipment needed for people to start archery.

A complete beginner can learn to safely shoot a bow and arrow at a short distance within minutes. Mastering the skills and knowledge required to be a world-class archer, and performing under the pressure of competition, can take a lifetime. Beware, archery is addictive!

Did you know?

A fan of archery is called a ‘toxophilite’ or ‘friend of the bow’, from the Ancient Greek τόξον – tokson or ‘bow’ – and φίλος – philos or ‘friend’.