The crossbow is believed to have existed for more than 2000 years, long before gunpowder was invented in China. No one knows where the crossbow was created. It might have been developed in Asia and brought to Europe by early explorers, or possibly it was developed simultaneously on both continents. Early crossbows were used as military weapons and as sport hunting tools of the nobility. Early crossbows were cumbersome and heavy. They were also difficult to cock.
Eventually, the crossbow was replaced as a military weapon by the English longbow because a longbowman could release up to six arrows in the time it took a crossbowman to launch one. With the advent of black powder, rifles and cannons replaced bows and catapults in military use.