Featured Object: Yagua Blowgun overview image

Featured Object: Yagua Blowgun

  • Post Date: 09/14/2004
  • Reading Time: 2 minute read

The pucuna, blowgun, is a weapon used by some indigenous people of South America for hunting. The tribe that this particular pucuna belongs to is the Yagua people of Peru and Colombia. The Yagua people use the pucuna particularly for hunting monkeys, tree porcupines, pacas, sloths, and birds.

The way that each pucuna is made is different for each tribe. When making the pucuna, the Yagua people take extreme care because this is their main resource for hunting. Yagua pucunas are visually unique because they are wrapped with the root skins from the huambe plant, a kind of philodendron, and no two blowguns or dart canisters are the same. Often, there is an expert craftsman for each component of the blowgun.

Using a blowgun takes a lot of practice. The darts are usually carried in a woven canister and are generally sharpened with piranha teeth. The darts are dipped in a special poison called curare. The poison produces muscle paralysis by interfering with the transmission of nerve impulses at the receptor sites of all skeletal muscles. The effects of the poison do not take an animal down right away, as is often shown in movies. For a small mammal to fully lose consciousness or die it can take up to ten minutes.

The length of the blowgun itself is a large factor in the distance that the poison darts can travel. This particular blowgun is slightly more then 7.5 feet long. This blowgun may be able to shoot as far as approximately 325 feet at a velocity of 425 feet per second. This is 289 miles per hour, more than twice the speed of the fastest baseball pitcher.