It is located in the province of Western Finland and is part of the Southern Ostrobothnia region, 280 miles NW of Helsinki and on the main railway from Helsinki to Oulu. The municipality has a population of 8,080 (2003) and covers an area of 486.13 km² of which 2.32 km² is water. The population density is 16.6 inhabitants per km².
Knife making is a traditional industry in Kauhava, and many Finns recognize the name of this small town because of knives made there. At one time, as many as five different knife-making enterprises were underway in the town... today there is only one knife manufacturer- Iisakki Järvenpää OY, which has been making knives in Kauhava since 1879, but several individual custom knife makers like Antti Rannanjärvi, Harri Merimaa, Matti Koski, Mika Heikkilä and the last but not the least Altti Kankaanpää.
Puukko (one of the styles of Finnish knife) made in Kauhava are sometimes referred to as being in the Ostrobothnian style.
Each June sees the Kauhava International Knife Festival, lasting a couple of (very sunny) days and including knife exhibitions, knife making and knife throwing.
As with many Finnish localities, there are museums in Kauhava (Kauhava-Seura). One in the center of town features both the knife making tradition as well as the local textiles, which are striking. An out-of-place fishing lure is one interesting feature of this museum. Another museum on the outskirts of Kauhava features the 19th century home and farm of Iisakin Jussi. It provides an accurate view of late 19th century life in Western Finland. The Iisakin Jussi House in not open during the winter months.
The surrounding country is flat and well suited to agriculture, alternating between fields and forests. The town probably takes its name from the small river which passes through it.
Kauhava is also the home of the Finnish Air Force Academy.