What Is a Skinning Knife? Overview + Top 4 Picks

A good skinning knife has the potential to be a hunter, homesteader or butcher’s best friend or worst enemy. Using something too large makes skinning an animal a nightmare, and using a knife too small just as much of a pain. Even skinners who are used to skinning, tanning and creating fabulous furs and hides will tell you that your knife will be what makes or breaks you.

Damascus skinning knives

What is a Skinning Knife?

A skinning knife is a blade especially used and edged for getting hides or skins off of the carcasses of animals. These are intensely sharp knives, often coated with special dips to help them slide between the fat layer of an animal and it’s skin. There are simply thousands of choices on the market today but quality varies greatly. Here we’ll discuss the best of the best for each type of hide you’re looking to collect and why it does its job better than others of its class.

It’s also important to remember that some blades may not come pre-sharpened. Even if they do, a few quick strokes over a whetstone is bound to be a good thing for them. A sharper knife means an easier job on your end. A dull knife will get stuck, cut ridges into the hide of your prize, and cause a headache for no good reason.

The skinning knives recommended below can also be used to scrape hides and furs that are being tanned, thus making them dual purpose and all the more worth your while. Some of them are even able to assist in gutting, field dressing, and butchering though it is recommended that you are careful while deboning.

Key Skinning Knives for Common Uses

Top Hog Skinning Knife – MundiHunt Hog Skinning Knife

A good hog skinning knife will cut through the copious layers of fat and heavy hide to make it easy to pull it away. MundiHunt makes three of these with the 8″ being the best one on the market. Not only will this one happily help you skin out a prize hog, it’s also thick enough to help you butcher the meat under that pretty skin. Some may dislike it since it cannot be folded, but this knife fits easily in any standard sheath with a belt loop for easy carrying.

  • Length: 8″.
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds.
  • Material: 440 Stainless Steel.
  • Length When Closed: Does not close.
  • Best For: Hogs, pigs and other porcine animals with thick hides covering a lot of fat.

Top Deer Skinning Knife – Havalon Piranta Z Folding Blade Skinning Knife

Havalon is a newer company to skinning knives, but they’re bringing their A game. This short blade is small enough to skin goats, hair sheep and chickens around the farm while also doing a number on any deer, elk or even moose that you harvest out in the wilds. Though it has no gut hook for easy field dressing, it is still very possible to carefully field dress with this knife. While this comes pre-sharpened, it does better if you run it over a whetstone a few times to get manufacturer oil off of it.

  • Length: 7.5″.
  • Weight: 0.1 pounds.
  • Material: Surgical Steel.
  • Length When Closed: 4.5″.
  • Best For: Deer and other like-skinned animals such as small ruminants and larger poultry.

Top Small Animal Skinning Knife – The Old Timer 158OT

This well-reputed knife is a perfect size for skinning out everything from squirrels to partridges to rabbits, and everything in between. This particular brand is basically unchanged since the 1960’s and made in the USA. They come pre-sharpened and have a handy gut hook on them for easy field dressing. The Old Timer 158OT is a simple little knife with no “bells and whistles”, but perfectly serviceable and a good choice for a first knife for teenagers learning to skin as well as grandfathers that are old hands at the craft.

  • Length: 7.25″.
  • Weight: 0.2 pounds.
  • Material: 7Cr17 High Carbon Stainless Steel.
  • Length When Closed: 3.5″.
  • Best For: Small animals like game birds, doves, rabbits, and rodents.

Top Large Animal Skinning Knife – Raptorazor Big Game Skinner

The Raptorazor big game skinner is a curved, heavy duty blade that comes at almost no pack weight cost. Whether hunting down African wildlife or going after bears closer to home, these claw-shaped knives are the knife for getting a skin off a carcass. They even clean skin off fish, sharks and other hard-to-skin waterstock. Their one drawback is getting them up to a good sharpened edge. The curved blade does present a substantial challenge, but it keeps an edge incredibly well.

Raptorazor is, much like Havalon, somewhat of a new name to the market. That means these can be a little harder to find, but the search is well worth it. The curved blade does take some getting used to, but once you try it the first time you’ll wonder how you’ve lived without it.

  • Length: 9″.
  • Weight: 0.75 pounds.
  • Materials: Surgical Stainless Steel.
  • Length When Closed: 4″.
  • Best For: Thick skinned animals that don’t have a hog’s thick fat layer. Bears are easily done with this blade since their fat is less hard.

Finding your perfect skinning knife does take some time. Everyone has a very different style to skinning. Some may even prefer a particular type of grip or handle that leaves some of these in the cold. On all of these, we recommend carrying a whetstone at all times to keep blades razor sharp. Frequent blade wiping when dealing with heavily fatty animals will keep good blades from slipping and cutting your hide. If none of these do it for you, send us a suggestion. We’re always happy to hear from you.