The Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Century Spanish
Sporting Crossbow, with a Steel Bow of Moderate
Strength which was Bent by a Cranequin
This crossbow was employed in Spain in the sixteenth century and till
about 1635,1 for killing deer, boar and wolves with a poisoned
bolt. It was also in common use for shooting smaller animals and game birds
with an ordinary bolt, and continued to be popular for this purpose till
the end of the first quarter of the eighteenth century.
The powerful sporting crossbows previously described, which were carried
by hunters of deer and other beasts of size, caused death to the quarry
by the mere force and penetration of their heavy bolts.
In some parts of the Continent, however, particularly in Spain, a small
cranequin crossbow was used for deer.
With the Spanish crossbow, it was merely necessary that its bolt should
be discharged with sufficient strength to perforate the skin of a deer,
the deadly poison with which the head of the bolt was smeared quickly ensuring
death by mingling with the blood. The Spanish crossbow which shot a light
poisoned bolt, was, therefore, of no great power. It was smaller and more
convenient for the hunter to carry than the larger and stronger weapon
of France, Italy and Germany, which dealt destruction to an animal by sending
its bolt deep into some vital part of the body.
The use and construction of this Spanish weapon are well described by
A. M. del Espinar. 2
This author was a Spaniard, and his quaint and rare book was printed
in 1644. He is the only writer who describes in some detail the crossbow
used for killing deer in Spain. He explains the mechanism
1 In 1644 del Espinar bitterly laments the
laying aside of the crossbow in favour of the arquebus
for killing deer.
2 Arte de Ballesteria v Monteria, Alonzo Martinez
del Espinar. Madrid, 1644.