Hunting knives are one of the most popular custom knives. Drop point, antler handle, full tang: the recipe for a “classic” knife is clear. But if you want to not just make hunting knives but also sell them, then it pays to know a bit more about the topic, right?
To help custom knife makers (and because I was simply curious myself), I’ve had a look at various trends. This article should help answer questions such as:
- Where in the world are hunting knives popular?
- Are hunting knives seasonal, and if so when should I push them?
- What about bushcraft knives? Should I maybe make those instead?
- Which spelling should I use when marketing my hunting knife?
How could I possibly know this stuff? Fortunately, there are many tools out there to help us find out. One such tool is Google Trends, which allows you to see how Google searches were doing, starting in 2004.
Did a search term rise in popularity? In which country is it most popular? How does one search term compare to another? This kind of stuff.
Okay, enough fluff, what did I find out about hunting knives?
Time is short, so I’ll start with the conclusions. If you’re interested in the details, scroll down further.
- Hunting knives are most popular in Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. They are 5x more searched for in Russia than in most Western countries.
- There was a big increase in interest around fall of 2017 in Russia and other Eastern European countries—I’ve no idea why.
- There is a clear seasonal interest before Christmas in some countries (like the US, Germany and Canada) but not in others (like Australia, the UK, and Czechia).
- What is the most searched for spelling? “Hunting knife” is the most common spelling world-wide by far, followed by “hunter knife“ and “hunter’s knife”.
Caveats and other things to remember
This is about Google searches. Why am I stressing this? Because this means we’re not looking at Facebook searches, Instagram queries, or Pinterest boards. And we’re completely omitting good old customers in knife stores, or knife fans at trade shows.
Another thing that data doesn’t show is why—the reason behind trends.
Sometimes it seems fairly obvious—for example, when there’s a steady increase until Dec 25 followed by an instant drop. In this case I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Christmas plays a role here.
At other times, it’s not clear and I’m trying not to jump to conclusions.
World-wide trend for hunting knives
So, let’s look how the topic “hunting knife” trends world-wide from the beginning of 2008 until now.
That looks like nice growth, particularly after 2014, with a jump in 2017. (See for yourself on Google Trends.)
Note: In most of this article, we’re looking at the topic “hunting knife”. According to Google, a topic is “a group of terms that share the same concept in any language”. Since we’re interested in world-wide trends on hunting knives, regardless of how that’s called in German, Thai or Russian, “topic” fits the bill.
Later in this article we’re looking at the search term “hunting knife” among others. There, its about a family of topics—everything around hunting knives—but it’s only in English.
So, all’s good with hunting knives? Trend is up and upper? Not so fast. Let’s have a look at where those searches are made.
Here is a world-map that Google Trends gives us. The darker the color, the more searches for hunting knives come from there.
It seems that in Russia and a couple of surrounding countries, hunting knives are much more searched for than in the US, Europe, Asia … anywhere else. (Again, those are Google searches. Doesn’t mean popularity in general.)
Maybe this changed in recent years? Let’s look at the past 12 months only:
Nope, doesn’t seem to change much.
Let’s have a closer look at how much more popular hunting knives are in the top countries relative to the other countries, again over the last 12 months.
Belarus is the country where the topic is most popular, so that’s 100%. In Poland for example, hunting knife interest is only at a third of that in Belarus.
What’s particularly interesting: the US and the UK, which seem to have a very custom knife scene (though possibly more kitchen knifes for the UK), did not even make the top 20.
This could simply mean that Google is not the preferred starting point to learn and buy about hunting knives anymore. But so much less? Definitely an interesting data point.
Let’s look at how search interest has been doing since 2008 in a few selected countries.
Popularity by location
How are hunting knives doing for individual countries? See for yourself at the Google Trends example of Canada—change the countries drop down on top to look at different countries.
Note: We’ll look at search interest since 2008. Note that search is normalized for each country, meaning that the left (vertical axis) shows search interest in percent, relative to the highest peak. It’s great for looking for trends (doh!) but not great for comparing absolute search interest between countries (what we did before): 100% of total searches in one country may be a lot less than 100% in another.
Search interest in the United States showed an upwards trend until 2013, and has been fairly stable since then.
A similar picture presents itself for Canada:
In the United Kingdom, there may even be a downwards trend. I would not get all excited over this trend line just yet, though.
Next up is an interesting graph: Russia (with its big share of knife fans) is part of the reason why globally search interest spiked in 2015!
As you can see, this is a one-time spike in fall 2016, and interest has been fairly stable since then—this indicates that this might be simply a data problem, rather than a change in people’s needs or wants.
I did try to find a political explanation for this (maybe hunting knives were suddenly subsidized, that sort of thing) but came up short.
How much did this possible data problem distort the trend? I looked at popularity between 2008 and 2014—but the trend is the same: former Soviet countries dominated search interest. (See for yourself.)
Last one we’ll look at is Canada:
Similar picture than the United Kingdom. Can this be a Commonwealth thing?
Maybe you already spotted that some countries seem to have very different patterns for search interest. Which brings us to our next question.
Are hunting knives seasonal?
Does interest for hunting knives follow seasons? They should be more sought after in winter maybe? But, when it’s winter in the global North, it’s summer in the South, so maybe it doesn’t make a difference? Let’s look at the data!
There are a few countries where there is a clear seasonal trend. To see it, I’ve gotten the trends individually and put them in one graph. Here is data since 2012 for the topic “hunting knives” for Canada, Germany, and the US.
The vertical lines show end of the year for every 2nd year. As you can see, for Canada and the US, the spike in winter is very clear. I’d venture so far to say as that it’s not just a winter spike, but a Christmas spike—because search interest drops exactly at the end of the year.
Germany also has those spikes, though some years it seems to stay higher throughout.
A Christmas spike is not always present. For comparison, have a look at Australia, Czechia and the UK:
(See for yourself: Search trend since 2012 for Canada.)
Do you spot an obvious seasonal trend? I don’t.
Hunting knife compared to other knives
How popular are hunting knives compared to other types of knives? Let’s compare the knife types that Google has topics for.
Okay, it seems like kitchen knives (red) are in a league of their own. That makes sense, it’s more a class of knives anyway, right? Apart from that, hunting knives (blue) seem to be slightly above bowies and combat knives.
One interesting bit: there seems to have been increasing interest in kitchen knives starting around end of March. That’s the time the lock-downs hit world-wide and many people were starting to cook at home. That would be fun to have a closer look—shoot us a message on IG if you’re interested in an article on that.
Let’s look at a few other knife types for which Google does not have topics—so we’re comparing search terms instead.
Note: If we’re looking at search terms, in this case we’re only looking at English searches, but for anything related to those knives. Topics and Search terms are not the same thing, but still, we should get a relative impression about how popular the knives are.
Clearly, “hunting knife” is the most popular search term of the four, and more than twice as much as “bushcraft knife”.
Again, a bit of context for your business goggles: That doesn’t mean that hunting knives sell as well as for example a bushcraft knife, or that you can ask a higher price. Only that people searched for it. There is probably a correlation between search interest and buying interest, but that’s not a given.
So, what’s the most popular spelling of “hunting knife”, if you’re doing it in English? Hunting knife? Hunter’s knives? Or any of the combinations? What are people searching for?
And the winner is: “hunting knife”, followed by the plural “hunting knives”. Yes—the title of this article is no accident. 🙂
Have questions or want us to look at other trends or tools? Shoot us a message on Instagram: @indieknives!