Some basic information about Boomerangs*

   The returning boomerang has amused and confused people around the world for centuries.  A properly made and thrown boomerang will fly in a circular pattern and return to the thrower.  Many people are still a bit confused about these unique flying toys, and mistakenly believe them to be used for hunting.  

   There is a distinct difference between the flattened, non-returning throwing club (more commonly known as a kylie) and the returning boomerang.  The kylie was (and is) used by nomadic tribes in the Australian outback for taking down small game, and as a weapon for fighting.  It was also used for digging, harvesting, skinning downed animals, and even as a musical instrument.  It was probably the Aboriginal version of the multi-purpose tool that so many people carry today.  The picture to the left shows a kylie and a modern plywood hook-style boomerang - both made in Australia.

   The boomerang was designed from a smaller piece of wood that, when thrown properly, would return to the thrower - usually to be caught.  These were sometimes used by hunters to throw over flocks of birds on a billabong to keep them from flying away and allow the others in the party to be able to throw kylies or spears into the group to increase the likelihood of a kill.  They may have also been thrown over a herd of larger land animals in hopes of steering them toward other hunters that would be hidden behind bushes or large rocks. 

   The boomerang was chiefly used as a returning toy or ceremonial instrument.  It would be used to train young throwers to perfect their skill and also give them games to play.

Australian and American made boomerangs

   Part of the reason for the confusion between the hunting stick and the boomerang goes back to the time when Cook first explored the continent of Australia.  The legend has it that the explorers in the group were trying to gather as much information and artifacts as possible to take back to England.  They saw the Aboriginal people using bent sticks for a multitude chores.  They would dig roots with them, clack them together for music, throw them at animals to get meat to eat, and also throw them in games of skill.  Sometimes these sticks would return to the thrower.  Upon questioning the tribesmen about these amazing sticks that they used for hunting - that would also return - the people didn't understand what the explorers were talking about, because there were several different types of throwing, hunting, and "working" sticks. 

   To paraphrase the interchange, the explorer may have said something like, "What are these sticks called that you are throwing for hunting and they return to you?"  The Aborigine was confused because these were two distinct items, so he said, "Boomerang?", which roughly translates, "What are you talking about?"  The explorer, not knowing the Aboriginal language, assumed that all these sticks - whether used for hunting or not - were called "boomerangs" and would all return to the thrower, if thrown properly.  The explorers gathered examples of each kind and took them back to England where they proclaimed them all to be "boomerangs."  Thus we have the modern day confusion about the Aboriginal people hunting with returning boomerangs.  Which, of course, if you really think about it, is rather absurd.  If you have ever thrown a returning boomerang, you quickly realize that it must be thrown exactly right - taking into account the wind direction, forward velocity, spin, and style of the boomerang - to get it go come back even relatively close to the thrower.  In other words, a returning boomerang will make a lousy hunting stick because it is very rare that you will spot an animal who is at the right position on the ground, 60-90 degrees off the wind, and will wait for you to get within the 40-50 yard range of your returning boomerang.  There would be many hungry tribesmen if this were really the case.




*Not all information on this page is guaranteed to historically accurate, but it's more interesting than what may have really happened.