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Tim Garec




Location: Canada
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PostPosted: Fri 08 Nov, 2019 9:01 am    Post subject: 900 - 1400s hunting knives of Europe         Reply with quote

Hello all,

First post. I have been researching what medieval hunting knives may have looked like, as in was there a common pattern such as the typical Finnish puukko. So far I have not been able to come up with much of an answer. From what I have gathered, for the average commoner, it may have just been their eating knife doubling as a hunting knife as well. If anyone has some light to shed on this topic I would be very grateful for some information.
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Alexander Ehlers




Location: Utah
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PostPosted: Fri 08 Nov, 2019 4:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I imagine, that for the most part they remained similar to the short broad Seax of saxon orgin, however I may be wrong.
The seax has a very broad blade, making it suitable for both skinning and eating with. Plus it's easy to make a seath for it, as well as a replacement grip.

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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 08 Nov, 2019 8:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This image, from the Livre de Chasse, is a bit later than your time frame. However, hunting knives did not change that much during the Middle Ages, so the knives shown here are valid for at least a couple centuries prior to this, with some variations occurring in how they were hilted. Notice the clipped points.


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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Sun 10 Nov, 2019 4:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am basically with Craig.

It is very hard from the artefacts of this period (until dedicated hunting trousse came along) what is a hunting knife or not or indeed if they really had any distinction. Don't forget we are wealthy and like to consume and have a production base so far ahead of theirs that if we want an object for something we design. make and buy exactly the correct item. Life was not like that for them and I would guess a knife seller sells a knife that is of the right sort for hunting and probably also great for sailors and shepherds and bolts makers, (or whatever) etc.......

The only way to really answer your question is to look at what is predominately shown in manuscripts, look at what is in museums that is similar and say "probably something like this". That will be as good as you can get and Gaston Phoebus is the best source for this, but there will be others.

Tod

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sun 10 Nov, 2019 7:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm kind of surprised wrote that Tod. I guess there are a couple of different ways you could look at this question.

I have a different perspective, first and most important, I think you very much do see specialized hunting knives in the late medieval context anyway. In earlier times perhaps I would agree blades are fairly rare and the all-purpose seax in it's variations is something like the bowie knife of the Migration Era.

But by the late medieval era there are several distinct types of knife that you could categorize as hunting knives. Second, I also don't agree at all that people back then were universally poor. If you are looking at the more urbanized parts of Europe - Italy, Flanders, the Rhineland and so on, you'll find many people with more than enough disposable income to buy more than one knife. A sword costs roughly half a mark, less than a weeks income for a typical basic artisan. Peasants could earn as much as 30 or 40 marks a year unless there was a war in their district or drought or famine of some kind.

You see a few distinct types, one speaking of peasants is the bauernwehr, literally "peasant weapon". You see a lot of these in the artwork, quite a few surviving antiques showing up in auction houses and seen sometimes in museums. They also go by other names. But basically this is like a messer but a bit shorter, often somewhere in the 12-20" range, and usually featuring a nagel. Tod makes a bunch of nice replicas of these! Maybe he can link a few of his.

This one is an antique



Bauernwehr is a peasants all purpose knife, for fighting, for use as a tool, and for hunting. So it's not purely specialized for hunting but more like the bowie knife or the earlier seax. some are curved like the one above, a lot are strait, and some have the clipped points like this one



There is another German or Central European type called a 'rugger' This is kind of a subvariant of the bauernwehr I think more specifically for hunting, you often see them with broad blades and clipped points. Terminology is tricky though because the word is used interchangeably in modern times and 'back in the day' they often just called everything a knife.

You see a lot that just look like modern hunting knives, with broad blades and relatively short points. like this one



There is yet another type which I don't know the proper name for however it's a distinct and specialized hunting or butchering knife with a very broad blade and a short, even blunt point. This is a good example of the type I mean though unfortunately somebody has put a pistol on it



You see these extra wide ones all over the place, in the hands of relatively affluent Swabian burghers but also quite poor Catalan peasants from around the 14th Century. If you look at the blades on the belts of these hunters from the "Triumph of Maximillian" this is typical




There were also a variety of swords made specifically for hunting. This is the so called sauschwert, used for hunting boar.



closeup details of one here

https://www.historica-arma.de/historische-waffen/blankwaffen/sauschwert-deutsch-um-1520/

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Ralph Grinly





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PostPosted: Sun 10 Nov, 2019 3:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Don't forget that, during the medieval period, HUNTING was pretty much the province of the aristocracy. If your average peasant got caught hunting his Lords game, he was in serious trouble. Even collecting firewood in the Lords hunting preserves without permission could get you into trouble. So..for the AVERAGE person, there was no such a thing as a "hunting knife". There was the average, all purpose single-edged blade that probably didn't change much over the centuries.
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Tim Garec




Location: Canada
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PostPosted: Sun 10 Nov, 2019 3:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you all for the great info, I really appreciate the time you all took. When I originally posted the question - it was in the back of my mind that in many regions hunting game was prohibited for personal consumption, well if you were caught anyway. I've pretty much determined that any decent knife that someone had on average was probably just something they used for many tasks including that of hunting, people with a little more money probably had a better hunting knife etc.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Yesterday at 6:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ralph Grinly wrote:
Don't forget that, during the medieval period, HUNTING was pretty much the province of the aristocracy. If your average peasant got caught hunting his Lords game, he was in serious trouble. Even collecting firewood in the Lords hunting preserves without permission could get you into trouble. So..for the AVERAGE person, there was no such a thing as a "hunting knife". There was the average, all purpose single-edged blade that probably didn't change much over the centuries.


That actually isn't true. Of course it depends very much precisely where you are referring (maybe the British Isles?), and when, but in Continental Europe in the High to Late medieval period, it was perfectly normal for "AVERAGE" people like burghers or peasants to hunt - in fact without the ability and right to hunt and fish many would have starved. Hunting and trapping of certain species (such as beaver) were the basis for entire industries (production of felt in that case). There were protected "chases" reserved for princes or lower ranking nobles, and there were also specific areas where certain kinds of game, or specific methods hunting or fishing were restricted, but much of Europe was open for hunting most of the time.

One of the most fundamental realities of medieval Europe from around 1100 - 1500 (and I expect also before 1100 but I'm less qualified to speak on it categorically) is that hunting, trapping and fishing was routine and a major part of life for basically everyone: Men, women, people of all estates from the princely to the lowly serf. It was a very important source of food, and also many raw materials for making things ranging from clothing to crossbows.

Towns also owned hunting territories of their own, which they quite often defended violently from the nobles. For example the town of Griefswald attacked the Duke of Pomerania when he launched a hunt into one of their forests in the 15th Century, capturing virtually his entire entourage. In fact the main reason we know so much about hunting in the High to Late medieval periods is that the rights associated with hunting, trapping and fishing were so routinely the origin and reason for lawsuits, feuds, negotiation, and sometimes wars. All of which left extensive written records.

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Yesterday at 1:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One good source for hunting and fishing in the late medieval context, besides lawsuit records, are the various Livres de Chasse produced in places like Flanders (for the Duke of Burgundy) as well as in France, England, Germany and Italy.

This is one of the good ones, made in Flanders for the mighty Duke Phillip Le Bon of Burgundy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livre_de_chasse

Another one of the nicer ones is Emperor Maximillians "hunting and fishing book", sometimes called Das Fischereibuch Kaiser Maximilians.



It has a lot of beautiful paintings depicting various specific types of hunting and fishing, from the grand hunt such as you see above (with an army of servants flushing game out of the woods and the two bodyguards protecting the VIP from random bears or aurochs that might emerge) to more prosaic scenes like catching crawfish by torchlight.



You can find that book in fascimile, along with many of the others.

https://www.amazon.com/Das-Fischereibuch-Kaiser-Maximilians-I/dp/B079H3ZHVW

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