Shepherd’s Axe: Everything About Design and Uses

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June 12, 2023

Ever heard of an ancient axe called Shepherd’s axe? You may not know its full details and history even if you have one. Here we present a complete guide on Shepherd’s axe’s design and uses, which has a long history. Let’s dive into it!

Shepherd’s axe is a longer and lightweight ancient axe used as a weapon of war for centuries by shepherds and warriors in Eurasia or Central and Eastern Europe. They are given different names depending on the region. You may know this axe as Rambha, Valaska, etc. They are polled axes that serve as a walking stick and a supplemental hammer. So, it’s a versatile tool: you can have an axe, a weapon, a walking stick, and a hammer from a single tool. The people from Romania, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Czech Republic will have heard and known about Shepherd’s axe.

They are believed to have originated in the 9th century from the Eurasian region, somewhere in today’s Hungary. It started as a fighting axe. It was then migrated to central Europe between the 14th to 17th centuries during migration along the Carpathian and Dinaric Mountains. It was used in self-defence, and it is great for combat. Janosik Notorious bandit and his companions also used it. It is more associated with Slovak and Polish Shepherd and Hungarian warriors. They were also used by so-called highland robbers and there are actually documented cases of people being killed with these. So, we know that these were perfectly functional weapons in ancient times.

The shepherd’s axe used to be customised according to the owner and was believed to be representing one’s identity or the religious community. They were also used during ceremonial practices by the priestesses.

The shepherd’s axe is still in use in places like Poland, Slovakia, etc. In most of the places, they are kept for decoration, as a souvenir.

General Features

The shepherd’s axe is not just a very great tool but also a very wood weapon. The axe is designed to give you a perfect reach, and you can do many things with it. The sharp bottom also helps you attack the enemy or trees from a long distance. Since the length is longer and the grip may be uncomfortable due to its thin and weak material, you need to wear gloves or safety tools to reduce the back impact on your hands.

The shepherd’s axe, carrying a long history, is adorned with beautiful ancient traditional designs and stamps. The axe head is small, length is long, thin, and lightweight, and Sycamore is used as the wooden material here. The small metal butt is fitted perfectly so that it can be used as a walking stick.

The head is well made, like how a hammer bit is shaped at the end. The handle is beechwood which is usually not chosen for the axes. It might not be as efficient as Ash and Hickory, but it is still suitable for the axe. Its handle tapers down the bottom, forming a sharp end. So, it gets thinner, and the material to absorb the vibration after hitting the target decreases. You may get a little hand shock because of this traditional design.

You can find the length of the shepherd’s axe longer than typical axes. The primary purpose of this axe in ancient times was to use it as a weapon during the war and to chop small branches. Based on the purpose, the length was increased to get a good reach and used as support while walking to the war zones. The axe is thus more extended than a metre’s length.

As we know, the principle of the axe is based on the third-class lever. The length of the axe acts as an effort distance which multiplies the force applied. So, the impact from the object you hit from this axe may sometimes be uncontrollable and challenging to grip the tool.

This axe is very lightweight; designed for long-distance wars and small trees. Its lightweight nature is what makes it applicable to walking sticks and hammers. It works amazingly in smaller branches. In more giant trees, the pressure applied by this light axe may not be enough to produce a significant impact.


As we mentioned earlier, Shepherd’s axe is versatile. You can get your many tasks done with a single axe. The primary uses of this axe include:

    • Chopping small branches: It can split small branches in a minute.
    • Weapon during the war: One of the main reasons it was developed was to use it as a weapon during the wars.
    • Walking stick: The long length and perfectly fitted axe head is designed to facilitate a walking stick.
    • Hammer: The back of the axe head can also be used as a hammer.
    • Attacking the target from a distance: The pointed end can easily get attached to the target when thrown in technique from a distance.


After going through the details of Shepherd’s axe, you can determine the possible pros of this tool. It can be listed in points as:

    • The Shepherd’s axe is an ancient history-carrying tool. So, it is historically very significant to identify the evolution of today’s modern tools.
    • The versatile nature of this axe lets the user get the advantages of a war weapon, axe, walking stick, hammer, and a source of entertainment.
    • Its design and principle paved the way for modern-day tools.


Along with the pros, you can filter out the drawbacks of this axe. It may be:

    • The thin handle induced an uncomfortable grip and less area to absorb impact.
    • The impact force was greater to the extent it couldn’t be controlled because of the long and thin length.
    • It was not suitable for the big trees and woods.

Can Shepherd’s Axe Be Used For Splitting Woods?

Yes, if it’s for the smaller branches. But for the larger and giant trees, they may not be better choices. Splitting the more extensive woods with a shepherd’s axe will take much longer. It’s not that it can’t be used, but the time and effort you put in while using Shepherd’s axe for the more extensive woods may not be worth it. So, it won’t be an intelligent choice for more giant trees. But if you are looking for wood splitting in smaller branches, you can go for Shepherd’s Axe.


You may have now acknowledged this long-shaft axe’s pros and cons. It was one of the significant tools centuries ago. Modern tools have now evolved to be a lot easier and more efficient. You can see these axes mainly in the museum and conservation centre. But you can still see it being used in many places in modern times.