What is a Hog Splitter header pic

What is a Hog Splitter?

A hog splitter - sometimes known as a beef splitter - is a knife, larger than a typical cleaver, that was used for… well, splitting hogs and cows. So if you need a trigger warning regarding the butchering of animals, here it is. Hog or beef splitters came before the days of band saws, chain saws, and other electrified equipment in the meat packing industry. They can range from 6 pounds to over 16 pounds, and a good portion of their shape comes from the handle where a butcher could use both hands, different from a typical cleaver which is used with one hand. Let’s get to chopping.


Hog and beef splitters have been around for centuries with no real definitive history outside the world of ‘necessity being the mother of invention.’ Because all cuts of meat from all animals are mapped based on half of the animal’s body, a butcher’s first order of business is to hang an animal’s hind legs tied from the ceiling, and split the animal in half.

Vintage photographs of hog splitters being used

Like an ax, splitters can chop along the spine and through the head, allowing the animal to be laid on a table for further cuts, as seen in the above pics. Here's your second warning - there's a video of a splitter in action at the end of this blog used in butchering a lamb, and a second video of the Forged in Fire episode with Doug Marcaida handing a hog splitter more aggressively. You can click the pic below to see all our knives currently online.

Antique hog splitters and maker's mark
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During the Industrial Revolution, metal-craft and forging experienced a renaissance with large-scale production and manufacturing. For example, we have below a splitter from Foster Brothers, founded in 1878 by Frank and Allie Foster. In 1883, John Chatillon & Sons Co. of New York City (est. 1835) acquired Foster Bros and expanded their line to include over 500 items. As seen by the product catalog, the splitter would’ve originally come with the tang wrapped chord grip, certainly made for double-fisting action. You can click below to see this one closer. 

Foster Bros Hog Splitter catalog and pics from Industrial Artifacts

 Another example is William M. Beatty & Sons (or WM Beatty & Son/s or W Beatty & Son/s) from Chester, Pennsylvania that manufactured many slicing tools between 1839 and 1882. There were actually a gaggle of Beatty blacksmiths on the upper east coast, and the company eventually became Chester Edge Tool Works. You can check out a great listing for Beatty makers mark HERE. Like the Foster Bros above, a Beatty & Son/s splitter is pretty massive. The one we have in our shop comes with a beautiful wooden handle. You can click below to see get a closer look.

William M Beatty and Son Hog Splitter
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When shopping, make sure to check for breaks and repairs. Careful with handling, of course. Maker's marks are usually found on the blade when the knife is pointed to the left. Also think about your intended purpose. As a historical artifact, hog or beef splitters and cleavers will elevate the quality of your interior design, but like the trend of bringing cast iron skillets back to life, incredibly patient people are also bringing splitters and cleavers back to their former glory. Check out the video below from Meine Mechaniker on YouTube.

So you want to see a hog splitter in action? Thanks to STU8944 on YouTube, here's how to properly use a splitter on a lamb.

 And for those who enjoy Forged in Fire, here's the hog splitter segment.

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