Over the past decade, I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with the man who many believe is the father of the modern-day crossbow, Bernard Horton. There was a time in the not-so-dis- tant past that the name Horton was synonymous with the word crossbow. Unfortunately, the Horton brand is no longer in pro- duction, but the man behind the legendary name continues to thrive and carry the same passion for invention and adventure as he did as a youth in his native Wales.
Having dropped out of high school at the tender age of 15, he never missed a Saturday morning trip to the cinema which was located in his small Welsh town. On one such foray, a new hero was revealed to him that would light a fire within him that would burn bright for the rest of his life, Robin Hood. “I can vividly recall the first time I saw the exquisite, awe-inspiring curve of a drawn longbow, an arrow cradled on its string, its pointed head gently resting atop the archer’s fist, poised to fly headlong to who knows where. The memory still raises goosebumps 60-years later.” – Bernard Horton.
From that day forward he longed for his own bow and arrow but with the inability to purchase one, he began making his own. His initial attempts were rather shoddy at first; but through trial and error and once he began to understand the physics of both the bow and the arrow, he could repeatedly fashion a very serviceable bow. He began to rejoice in his finished products and his interest in crossbows grew until he created a finely tuned hunting weapon that was capable of killing big game. News of his craftsmanship soon spread and he was approached by others – older people who showed an interest in what he was doing until the day finally arrived when he sold his first crossbow. ‘What an amazing event for a 15-year old boy with no proper education and seemingly no useful abilities. Even I found it difficult to accept that I had designed and created something that someone was prepared to pay money for. It was a revelation and it paved the way for my future and lifelong career.” – Bernard Horton.
Over the next few years, Horton perfected his trade and at the age of 19, in 1963, he started his first proper business, Horton Crossbows. After perfecting the crossbow through testing and actual in the field performance, he brought the crossbow to America in 1968, and as they say, the rest is history. “Although I am not of American birth and have never permanently lived in America, I would like to say a big “thank you” to all the Ameri- can people who have helped and supported me over the past 45-years. I have made many good friends without whom my life would be impoverished indeed.” – Bernard Horton.
I am fortunate to be able to call Mr. Horton a friend and to have the ability to hear of his life’s adventures firsthand. He now resides in Africa and has penned multiple books which I highly recommend. Two of these are My Forever Heartache the fascinating story of his four-year adventure which saw him become one with the Kalahari Bushmen and The Horton Story which tells of his lifelong interest in the many facets of manufacturing crossbows, as well as his passion for hunting and game management. It is also an insight into his successful business enterprises and a fascinating look at the complex and often surprising philosophy of his life. Both books can be found on Amazon.
His many innovative designs revolutionized crossbow manufacturing internationally and are still the major source of inspiration to crossbow designers to this day.