In constructing a composite or laminated bow, horn has a practical purpose.

A thin layer of horn is glued onto what will be the belly of the bow, the side facing the archer. Water buffalo horn is very suitable, as is horn of several antelopes such as gemsbok, oryx, ibex, and that of Hungarian grey cattle.[3] Goat and sheep horn can also be used. Most forms of cow horn are not suitable, as they soon delaminate with use. The horn can store more energy than wood in compression.

In this alternate scenario, the horn of one other animal is being used in the process--that of the rhinoceros. The only problem is that rhino horn does not have a bony core--it's nothing more than compressed hair. So the question is: Would rhino horn be a feasible ingredient in the construction of a composite bow?

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    $\begingroup$ Might I first of all say, you should be using crossbows. Crossbows make everything easier, literally everything becomes immediately easier with a crossbow. You may benefit from the compressed hair; you'll obtain much more elastic potential energy if the rhino horn bends backwards or forwards upon launch. I can't possibly imagine the hair instantly snapping after a couple hundred uses, compressed hair or not, rhino horns are pretty strong. As somebody corrected me in the comments below, it is a fiber. As they also stated, fiber doesn't work the best, so I would defenitley say that it is a no. I $\endgroup$ – Nate Dukes Mar 8 '17 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ You need to say that you are quoting from Wikipedia. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 8 '17 at 19:49

What horns are for sure suitable?

You need a horn that is keratin. You use it on the bow's belly due to its compression strength. If you look closely at images, like here, here and here, you will see that keratin horn used on bows looks smooth, almost like uniform, molded plastic. This is because layer used is so dense, and keratin strands so close and so connected with each other that it will be really hard to break their bonds, aka delaminate.

If you will look at cow's horn, you will see layers and "strands" image, image. These are not too strongly held together. Indeed you can break cow horn spoon just by washing it without caution. Seen it.

Now, about rhino horn. Look at images of it. Like this, this and this. Strands and splinters are even more visible. On finished products it is more pronounced. While horn handles and bow bellies are usually shiny smooth, the best what you can do with rhino horn looks like that, or that.

This is not a definitive proof, but this sure look worse than cow horn, already found unsuitable.

Sadly, rhinos are endangered and their horns expensive, so finding actual measurements on them was beyond my capability. Also, if someone would be able to find a CC replacements for images I linked to, I'll be glad to include them. For now, this is the best I can do.


The bone part is not what is used in the composite bow; it is the outer keratin sheathe. Given that, there doesn't seem to be any reason you can't use a rhino horn, as its chemical composition will be similar to an antelope horn.

Deer 'horns' are actually bone, with no keratin at all; that is why they are not listed as a suitable material for the belly of the bow.

However, given that cow horn is unsuitable, and that is more or less the same keratin as the other horns, it is hard to say for sure that rhino horn would be suitable.

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    $\begingroup$ Antelope horn is pretty monolithic, with 3d net inside. Rhino horn is fibrous, with fibers relatively easy to separate. Chemical composition is not everything. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Mar 8 '17 at 21:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Mołot If you know so much about horns (which you seem to) why aren't you answering this question? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 8 '17 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Mołot What kingledion said. Whether rhino horn is suitable for bows or whether it will delaminate like cow horn was the actual question asked. Since you know the answer and actually wrote it as a comment, why not write it as an answer? $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 8 '17 at 23:08
  • $\begingroup$ Because I didn't have time to gather references. Yet. I'll try, but I want it to be solid. Rhino is endangered, so it's hard to find actual measurements. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Mar 9 '17 at 0:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Mołot Ah, the "science based" tag. As this is more or less yes/no question, I doubt John has any need for actual numbers or references, if you have a credible source for your previous comment. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 9 '17 at 2:38

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