The Khyber Knife: Its Uses and Its Unique History

I’ve been an avid knife collector for awhile now. Every once in a while, though, I still come across a knife that really changes the way I think about this amazing hobby. The Khyber Knife is one of those knives. And this time, I’d like to show it to you.

I’ll go over the history of this great knife, show you some of the uses for it, and offer advice on how to go about adding one to your collection.

By the end of this post, you’ll be as much of an expert on the Khyber as I am. More than that, however, I hope that you’ll start to love them just as much as I do.

What Is A Khyber Knife?

So, what exactly is a Khyber? Although it first originated from ancient Persia, the blade is more commonly recognized as an Afghani-based sword. This isn’t too surprising as the blade was – and still is – both a personal weapon and a sign of adulthood for the tribes living near the Khyber Pass.

Designed as a thrusting weapon, the Khyber is a recurved blade with a tempered steel single-edge full-tang. Most common-day variants, however, lack much of the recurve found in earlier designs. Common to all variants, however, is the design of the actual blade. Broad near the hilt, the blade tapers off into a needle-like point.

Most Khyber’s are usually around 17 inches long with a blade length of around 12 inches. Traditionally, the handle is fitted with walrus tusks, but ivory from elephants or rhinoceros is also common. At times, it’s not rare to see the handle made with wood, jasper or metal.

As for sheaths, most are typically created with leather over wood. Precious stones or silver are commonly used as decoration.

What Is A Khyber Knife Used For?

Like many other ancient knives, the life of the Khyber began with a practical purpose – as a weapon. As you can tell by the design, the Khyber makes for a fantastic thrusting weapon that is great at piercing through mail armor. With mail being a popular choice for foot soldiers at the time, this made the Khyber a deadly and effective choice.

Over the years, though, the Khyber has begun to stray from its initial purpose. However, it continued to serve as an effective close-combat weapon. The Khyber, along with its cousins the Chura and the Kard, continues to serve the clans of the Khyber Pass. However, combat is not its only purpose today. For many of these Afghan hill tribes, it serves as a ceremonial badge of adulthood.

For knife collectors like me, however, the Khyber has another purpose: it’s a wonderful display piece. For many knife collectors, a Khyber makes for an amazing centerpiece.

But it’s a centerpiece not just because of its beautiful design. The Khyber is a blade with a rich history behind it as well.

The History of Khyber Knives

As I mentioned before, the Khyber first originated from ancient Persia. Specifically, it was first created during the time of the Safavid dynasty in the 17th century. Back then, however, it was not called what it is today. Rather, it was more commonly known as a Pesh-kabz, a term first used to describe the front of a girdle worn by Persian wrestlers at the time.

The History of the Khyber Knife

The Pesh-kabz proved to be such a reliable weapon that its use soon spread to the neighboring countries of Afghanistan and Central Asia. Even the Mughals found the blade to be a worthwhile investment, as they eventually introduced it to the Indian subcontinent.

However, it was not until the period of colonial rule in India by the British that the Pesh-kabz became known as the Khyber. At the time, the British would frequently refer to the Pesh-kabz – as well as blades similar to it – as Khyber knives. It’s a name gotten from the nearby Khyber Pass that marked the transition from British India into the nation of Afghanistan.

The blade was popular enough in India that the northern city of Bhera – now part of Pakistan – became a manufacturing hub for the blade.

How to Pick the Best Khyber Knife?

With such a rich history behind it, it’s plain to see why the Khyber is a knife that has entrenched itself in the hearts of many a knife collector. But like many popular choices of knives, it can be hard to find a suitable Khyber for your collection.

Unfortunately, it’s near impossible to find a genuine Khyber. Of those you can find, most will be prohibitively expensive. The good news, however, is that it’s easy to find a Khyber that is both close to the real thing and also reasonably-priced.

Material Quality

Take the material that a Khyber is made of. Many Khyber’s marketed towards collectors are made with a fabulous blend of quality and affordability. It’s common to see these collector items made with high-grade steel and other high-quality materials.

Design

Likewise, many of these same Khyber’s have a design that is close to the original. For many non-experts, it would be near impossible to spot the difference. At the same time, many other Khyber sellers also give their Khyber an original design or extra features. For these Khyber’s, they are just as practical as they are wonderful to look at.

Price

And finally comes price. But it isn’t what you would expect. Sure, there may be a few cheaply-priced Khyber’s, but many others are priced to reflect their quality while still being affordable. These range of prices ensure that every collector has access to a Khyber that is within their budget.

The Khyber Knife: A Unique Blade With A Unique History

Even if you’re not a Khyber expert, you know enough about these amazing blades to understand just why they deserve a place in your collection. From the depth of their history, all the way to their modern-day use as a sign of adulthood, the Khyber knife is more than just a knife.

The Khyber knife is a piece of history and a valuable collector’s item.

Featured Photo Attribution: Metropolitan Museum of Art / CC0

Last update on 2020-07-08 at 09:30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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