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 Originally a hunting instrument whose string twanged satisfyingly when the arrow was released, it evolved into the Harp and similar stringed Instruments.

It was also realised that it was a satisfactory device for pulling across the string of another bow to maintain the sound as against the rapid attack and decay of plucking. Thus the same instrument could be plucked or bowed.

A good material for the bow is hair - particularly horse hair as it has fine hooks which when brought up by rosin constantly pluck at the string as it is drawn across.

Modern bows for the Violin family follow a particular design (originally by Francoise Tourte) and can be tensioned by a screw at the end. Other bows such as for Psaltery or Rebec are often simpler and shorter.