Archery in Bhutan

Bhutanese Archer

Bhutanese Archer

While passing through towns and villages in Bhutan, we often came across Bhutanese men enjoying a game of archery. Archery in Bhutan, however, is played somewhat differently to the international version. Archery became extremely popular during the late 1920’s and is now very much a part of everyday Bhutanese life.

Bhutanese Dancers Taunt the Archers During Archery Competitions in Bhutan

Bhutanese Dancers Taunt the Archers During Archery Competitions in Bhutan

Every team has its own set of singers and dancers, but they are not there to just cheer their own team. They stand by the target and try to distract and mock their opponents with songs and dances which taunt them about their skills on the archery field as well as their prowess in the bedroom. If the other team does hit the target, then they start to howl. Despite not understanding the jokes and taunts, it was fun to watch.

In Bhutan the Archery Targets are an incredible 145 Meters Away

In Bhutan the Archery Targets are an Incredible 145 Meters Away

The distance between the targets is 145 metres, almost twice the length of the Olympic Games. The first team to get 25 points wins. One point for getting close to the target, two points for hitting the target and three points for hitting the bullseye. Interestingly, there are no referees or judges to keep score.

The Target in Bhutan Archery

The Target in Bhutan Archery

Something else, that keeps the game a little different from the international game is drinking. Yes, a traditional game of Bhutanese archery wouldn’t be the same without copious amounts of eating and drinking ara moonshine, although there is a rule that archers should not drink too much if there are lots of spectators around!

Sarah Gets Into the Spirit of Bhutan Archery

Sarah Gets Into the Spirit of Bhutan Archery

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Author: Words by Sarah Wilson - Photos by Jonathan Look Jr.

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2 Comments

  1. The archery reminded me very much of my home city of Nottingham and of course Robin Hood. That, together with the fact that Nottingham’s heritage is also based on textiles made me realise that our places had two important things in common – amazing when considering the distance (horizontal and vertical) between them !

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    • We had no idea and found it a bit unusual, but the Bhutanese were obsessed. It really is strange how the more you travel, the more you find in common.

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