A boomerang is a thrown tool that comes in various shapes and sizes, depending on its geographic or tribal origin and intended function.
The most recognizable type is the returning boomerang, a kind of throwing stick that, when thrown correctly, travels in a curved path and returns to its point of origin.
It is well-known as a weapon used by some Aboriginal Australian peoples for hunting.
Boomerangs have been historically used for hunting, as well as sport and entertainment. They are commonly thought of as an Australian icon, and come in various shapes and sizes.
Although traditionally thought of as Australian, boomerangs have been found also in ancient Europe, Egypt, and North America. There is evidence of the use of non-returning boomerangs by the Native Americans of California and Arizona, and inhabitants of southern India for killing birds and rabbits.
Boomerangs are probably the first heavier-than-air flying machine ever invented by human beings. The oldest Australian Aboriginal boomerangs are 10,000 years old, but older hunting sticks have been discovered in Europe, where they seem to have formed part of the Stone Age arsenal of weapons.
In contrast to spears, boomerangs are thrown to spin through the air and cause damage by clubbing rather than impaling. They do not need to be delivered with the same accuracy as a spear, as the area covered by a spinning stick is greater. Boomerangs are perfect weapons against large upright animals such as kangaroos and emus. They are well suited for use in Australia’s predominantly open forests and grasslands.
Boomerangs come in many shapes and sizes. The smallest boomerang may be less than 10 centimetres (4 in) from tip to tip, and the largest over 180 cm (5.9 ft) in length.
Boomerangs are also works of art, and Aboriginals often paint or carve designs on them related to legends and traditions.
The modern boomerang is often computer-aided designed with precision airfoils. The number of “wings” is often more than 2 as more lift is provided by 3 or 4 wings than by 2. Among the latest inventions is a round-shaped Boomerang, which is a different look but using the same returning principle as traditional boomerangs. Most sport boomerangs typically weigh less than 100 grams (3.5 oz).
Boomerangs are generally thrown in unobstructed, open spaces at least twice as large as the range of the boomerang. The flight direction, left or right depends upon the boomerang, not the thrower. A right-handed or left-handed boomerang can be thrown with either hand, but throwing a boomerang with the wrong hand requires a throwing motion that many throwers find awkward. It may be heated or moistened to make the wood more supple, then bent and shaped into the final form before being smoothed, greased and decorated.
Today, there are different types of throwing contests: accuracy of return, Aussie round, trick catch, maximum time aloft, fast catch, and endurance.
Boomerangs are traditionally made by men and are constructed from a carefully chosen branch or root with the appropriate shape and grain. Having a natural boomerang shape in the grain of the wood, means that the tip of the boomerang is less likely to break off when it hits the ground. The branch or root is removed from the tree or bush, usually a mulga, gidgea, mangrove or casuarina, and is carved further into shape.
The origin of the term is uncertain. One source asserts that the term entered the language in 1827, adapted from an extinct Aboriginal language of New South Wales, Australia, but mentions a variant, wo-mur-rang, which it dates to 1798.
King Tutankhamun, the famous Pharaoh of ancient Egypt, who died over 3,300 years ago, owned a collection of boomerangs of both the straight flying (hunting) and returning variety.
Trademarks of Australian companies using the boomerang as a symbol, emblem or logo proliferate, usually removed from Aboriginal context and symbolising ‘returning’ or to distinguish an Australian brand.
A boomerang was used for the longest throw of any object by a human – the record is 427.2 metres (1,402 ft) and was set by David Schummy on 15 March 2005 at Murarrie Recreation Ground, Australia. This broke the record set by Erin Hemmings who threw an Aerobie 406.3 metres (1,333 ft) on 14 July 2003 at Fort Funston, San Francisco.
The largest returning boomerang measures 2.74 metres (9 ft) from tip to tip and was achieved by the British Boomerang Society and The One Show (both UK) at the Kia Oval Cricket Ground, London, UK, on 28 April 2014.
A boomerang measuring 48 mm (1.89 in) in length and 45 mm (1.77 in) wide, was successfully thrown by Sadir Kattan at the Australian National Boomerang Championships, Melbourne on 22 March 1997.
The greatest number of throw and returns in 60 seconds is 20 by Lawrence West on BBC TV’s Tomorrow’s World on 20 Mar 1998.
The juggling record — the number of consecutive catches with two boomerangs, keeping at least one boomerang aloft at all times — is 555, by Yannick Charles (France) at Strasbourg, France on 4 September 1995.
The most boomerangs juggled is 5, achieved by Danny Luftman (Portugal) in Ventimiglia, Italy, on 29 December 2013.