SPEAR, a weapon of offense, consisting of a wooden shaft or pole varying in length up to eight or nine feet, and provided with a sharp piercing point. The spear may be regarded as the prototype of the various forms of piercing weapons, such as the arrow, bolt and dart, which are projected from bows, catapults or other engines, and the javelin, assegai and lance, held in or thrown by the hand. The longer and heavier spears and lances are mainly retained in the hand while in use, but there is no absolute distinction. and the throwing of a spear has in all ages been a form of offensive warfare.
In its earliest form the spear would naturally consist of a simple pole of tough wood sharp ened to a point at one extremity, which point might be both formed and hardened by charring in fire. From this an improvement would con sist in fitting to the shaft a separate spear head of bone, as is still practised among primitive races.
The war lance of the mediaeval knights was 16 feet long; the weapon of modern cavalry regiments known as lancers may be from 81/2 to 11 feet long, usually adorned with a small flag near the head. The Persians at the present
day forge spear heads for ornamental purposes only, with two and sometimes three prongs. The modern spears of savage tribes, used equally for hunting and for warlike purposes, are frequently barbed with fish and other bones, and their fighting spears have sometimes poisoned tips. Among civilized communities the hunting spear continues to be used for fol lowing the wild boar and other large game, while the Cossacks of Russia and various corps in the armies of western Europe are armed with spears or lances, which experience has shown to be efficient weapons for cavalry. The spear was not an ordinary weapon among the North American Indians, who, before the intro duction of the musket among them, used the bow and arrows and the tomahawk.