Shepherd’s axe

A shepherd’s axe is a light axe with a long and straight wooden shaft, often with a metal tip at the base. The shafts were usually engraved, as their owners had plenty of time for crafting. Many old shepherd’s axes are considered works of art. The axe head, with a butt that can be used as a hammer, is shaped to sit comfortably in the hand, so the axe can also be used as a walking stick (like a miner’s axe and older kinds of ice pick).

In the 10th century, Hungarian warriors carried light axes on long shafts, known as a Fokos. Before them, the Bulgarians had also used a similar design. From the 15th century, the shepherd’s axe migrated to Central Europe from modern-day Romania. The axe was used mainly by shepherds as a versatile tool that served as a small axe, a hammer and a walking stick all in one.

Although the axe was no good for cutting down large trees, it was ideal for smaller branches. In Slovakia and Poland, shepherds were inseparable from their axes, which included heavy decorative straps.