What Is a Skinning Knife?

Written by jack kaltmann
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What Is a Skinning Knife?
A skinning knife utilises a sweeped blade design. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Mariusz Chilmon)

Hunters and butchers commonly use a skinning knife, which has a specialised, sweeping blade which is designed to easily separate an animal's skin from the meat and reduce the likelihood of damaging the underlying muscle.

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Scientists believe humans were using knives as far back as 2.6 million years ago. Over the centuries, the blade and handle materials have advanced from bone to stone to alloy metals, ceramics and even carbon fibres. Most knives consist of a piece of metal and a handle. The metal is divided into two parts: the sharpened blade and the dull tang. Handles are fitted on the tang.

What Is a Skinning Knife?
Ancient knives were made of stone. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Karl-Ludwig Poggemann)


A skinning knife is designed to remove the skin from large game animals. To aid in this effort, the knifes have sweeping blades and curved tips designed to avoid puncturing the hide or accidentally slicing the meat. Most skinning knives also have thinner blades than other knives. This allows for slight bending while removing the hide.

Blade Material

Modern skinning knives are made of stainless steel and surgical steel, which are known for holding a sharp edge. The hardness of the metal can make resharpening a challenge. For that reason, many hunters prefer older, softer carbon steel blades, which can be resharpened easily in the field with minimal equipment.


The market offers several tools for sharpening a knife, including ceramic sticks and mechanical sharpeners. Since most people use a skinning knife in the woods, they prefer lighter, more compact sharpening instruments, such as a sharpening stone.

Gut Hook

Some skinning knives have a dull, barbed hook on the tip of the blade. This feature, known as a gut hook, lets the user cut open the animal's abdomen without slicing any of the internal organs or damaging the meat.

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