The idea of bowing the dulcimer is a very old one and is easily traceable back to at least the 18th century. Before the Civil War, this technique was common. There are examples of older bowed dulcimers in the Mercer Museum in Pennsylvania with their original bows. I have also had reports of others hanging on walls in West Virginia. There are also accounts that tell us there were areas of the country where the instrument was only played with a bow. The evidence is still spotty but this manner of playing seems to have continued right down to the modern era. There is a picture in Jean Ritchie's first dulcimer book of a lady playing her dulcimer with a bow.
I was first aware of the technique back in the 70's and used to do it with some regularity on my first dulcimer. Since the bridge was flat, it was only possible to bow the low or the high string and so the technique was a pleasant effect but wasn't very versatile. When I used this old approach with some fiddle tunes, it occurred to me that I could certainly build an instrument that would make much better use of the bowing technique as well as have an instrument that would sound much better. This led me on what turned out to be about a four year quest In Search of the Bowed Dulcimer.