Like all German cutlery companies, Puma Knives had been banned from exporting their products to the U.S. during the first few years after World War II. In 1956 the company was looking for ways to reenter the American market. Working with the old association of East African professional hunters, the company created a totally new outdoor blade based on what these “experts” felt the perfect game knife would be. A massive advertising campaign followed in all of the major American outdoor magazines for the “Puma White Hunter.” (I’ve been told using the phrase “white hunter” is no longer P.C. but the model name was a product of a different time.) Soon, the new Puma was one of the most easily recognized sporting knives on the market.
Behind The Design
To be 100% truthful, a few of the more cynical observers made the comment that the knife certainly looked like something designed by a committee. I think part of the problem is the knife was obviously created with African game in mind. “Big game” for American hunters almost always means a whitetail deer that might average 150 pounds. On the other hand, desirable trophy species on the Dark Continent tend to run a little larger than that. Put a 2,000-pound Eland bull down and a 6-inch blade might start sounding a lot more practical. The same goes for kudu, waterbuck, wilderbeast, oryx, sable and zebra. In many ways, the Puma White Hunter is just a fancier version of the time-proven English pattern butcher knife. While few experienced North American hunters feel a knife of this size is necessary for game, that didn’t stop it from being popular with those new to the sport.
A little extra blade length is not always a bad thing when you are considering other uses for a knife besides field dressing 100-pound deer. When the Vietnam War flared in the mid 1960’s, the White Hunter quickly became one of the more popular private purchase field knives with the troops. Find a heavily used 60’s vintage White Hunter and the odds are always very good that it will have come from the hands of a military veteran. After the war, the knife also gained a dedicated following with outdoor survival instructors and wilderness hikers. It is hard to beat that broad point for strength, and the blade shape lends itself to a wide variety of utility uses.
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