A German Hunting-Knife or Hauswehr, 16th century

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Item ref: 3763

  • Germany
  • Steel, brass, staghorn
  • 38.2 x 4.5 cm


Private collection, Switzerland

Knives of this robust type, identified alternately as Hauswehren and Bauernwehren, were carried by the civil labouring populations of late 15th and 16th century Germany and Switzerland as part of everyday wear. As the names suggest these knives served widely as domestic implements, woodsmans’ knives and hunters’ weapons. The pommel and blade forms vary but the type has in common the ring-guard with its small vertical arm and frequently the unusual decorative finial which rises at the leading side from a very short guard. These protective devices were designed to prevent the user’s hand from slipping down along the edge of the blade.

Several examples (notably all excavated) are preserved in the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin; in common with the present example the grip-scales of the hilts were originally secured by the tubular brass linings of a series of transverse holes.

The type is made the more interesting as a result of the very accurate detailed illustrations of these knives, as carried by the range of peasant subjects included in the etched engravings of 16th century artists, notably Albrecht Dürer, Hans Sebald Behan and Urs Graf.