A large number of different bow designs have been used in different cultures and time periods. Common designs are; solid wood (the English longbow), laminated wood (Japanese and Saami bows) and bone-wood-hide composite (Middle East, India, Mongols). In modern times, the plastic composite and compound bows dominate for sport and hunting practices.
Although the bow is nowadays thought of primarily as a weapon, it is not clear whether this was the original use of the device. Instead it may have started life as a musical instrument and only later used to shoot arrows. The bow is still used as a musical instrument in some cultures today. It is usually referred to as a musical bow when used in this way, both to distinguish it from the weapon, and from the kind of bow used to play string instruments.
Modern-day use of bows for hunting is a matter of controversy in some areas but is common and accepted in others. Bow hunting is also still practiced in traditional cultures worldwide.
The "artillery" form of a bow is a ballista.