A Skeleton is a common hostile mob that shoots arrows and drops 0-2 bones, 0-2 arrows, armor (if equipped) and/or a bow (most likely used, however, there is a small chance a bow may be enchanted). They are primary ranged mobs that the player encounters while in the overworld. Skeletons (before 1.13) are currently only one of two mobs that drop bones, the other being a wither skeleton. Bones can be used to tame dogs and can be crafted into bonemeal, which is used to speed up the growth process of saplings and crops.
Like zombies, skeletons spawn in the darkness and have a chance of spawning with armor. They also burn in sunlight and take fire damage unless in the shade, water, or wearing a helmet. Skeletons seek shade when exposed to the sun so that they don't burn in the daylight. When a skeleton's arrow hits another hostile mob (with the exception of creepers and with the aid of a player to distract the skeleton), the other mob may attack the skeleton, and, if provoked, neither mob will attack a player until one of them dies. Skeletons themselves will also turn on any other hostile mobs that hit them, including other skeletons. Unlike most other mobs, skeletons are able to spawn naturally in both the Overworld and in the Nether, where they can spawn in Nether Fortresses in place of wither skeletons 20% of the time.
Skeletons can be one of the most difficult hostile mobs to combat. Because of their climatic abilities in accuracy and fire-rate, skeletons are difficult to combat from a short range, with their maximum range being from 16 blocks away. Skeletons are best taken out with a bow, a shield and, if available, a strong smite sword. Because skeletons drop arrows, it is suggested to use the bow in this situation. Additionally, skeletons can't shoot through vines, but a player can. It's best not to use the Knockback enchantment on a sword, because it gives them more range to fire their bow and get away from the sword. Another way of attacking it is to quickly sprint at it and go inside it (skeletons are non-solid) constantly and hit it with a sword. When one is inside it, the skeleton can't hurt one with its arrows.
With the usage of a shield, skeletons can be killed easily. When they are drawing their bow, quickly attack it, preferably with an axe, as it deals more damage per hit than a sword. It is best not to use a sword with knockback enchantment, as the skeleton will have more chances to shoot.
Skeletons are notorious for having enchanted bows and armor, exaggerating the need for ranged combat even more. Skeletons are usually best left alone if a player is not prepared, as they burn in sunlight and are aware of their surroundings when they are on fire.
If caught in the water when fighting a skeleton, it is best to retreat or use a bow instead of attempting to swim to it, as the constant barrage of arrows is more difficult to avoid while swimming and can easily knock a player back. An exception to this is when a player has boots with depth strider on, as this will allow the player to get close enough to the skeleton to strike with a sword. This works best if the player dives underwater. They will be mostly insulated from the skeleton's arrows by the water, allowing them to hit the skeleton from underwater.
Getting the skeleton into some water will definitely help, as arrows can't travel farther than 3 blocks underwater without sinking to the bottom.
Skeletons will drop bones and arrows upon death, and rarely a bow or even an enchanted one. Note that any bow the skeleton drops will be heavily damaged. If killed by a charged creeper's explosion, it will drop its head.
Try to trap them in a glass block building. Make sure to build the roof with non-transparent blocks, so that they will not burn in the daylight.
Find a mob spawner, and surround it with stone. Make a 4 block-deep water pit. One will need a hole in the floor to receive all the bones. Once one has acquired those bones, pour water, and skeletons will appear. (Glitch soon to be fixed)
Make at least 3 blocks deep hole and place a trapdoor over the hole. Connect the trapdoor to a button or a lever and activate it when a skeleton stands on the trapdoor.
Set a shade and close it off with a piston door. Then when it's the daytime, open the piston door, so the skeletons will run to the shade. When the skeletons are in the shade, quickly shut the piston door which will trap the skeletons inside.
Dig a 4x4 area 1 block deep hole with no corners. Fill the holes with sticky pistons. Then, go inside to the center of the hole and place down pressure plates inside the trap, then put dirt blocks on top of the sticky pistons and make a 3x3 roof 3 blocks above the ground inside it so the skeletons will go inside when it's day. Wait until a skeleton spawns. When the sun rises it'll go inside, and when they step on the pressure plates the sticky piston activates, trapping them inside. The skeleton will jump up and hit their heads until they die. (Note: You may need to break one of the pressure plates when getting the loot so you don't get trapped inside)
With each of these methods, you can kill the skeletons yourself, or you can use tamed wolves in minecarts to kill them as that will still qualify as a player kill.
Regular skeletons were the first skeletons added and can ride a spider, forming a jockey. Unlike zombies, skeletons do not pursue the player in daylight and will simply shoot players with its bow and arrows.
Strays were added in the 1.10 update and only spawn in snow biomes. Like other normal skeletons, strays can also ride spiders, forming a spider jockey. They also have the same drops as regular skeletons, but also drop an arrow of slowness. They can also burn in sunlight.
Skeleton horses spawn rarely throughout the overworld. When close enough if spawned naturally, lightning will strike and 4 skeleton horses along with 4 skeletons with enchanted iron helmets and enchanted bows appear. These are called skeleton trap horses.
Wither skeletons spawn exclusively in the Nether fortresses located in the Nether, alongside with blazes. Wither skeletons spawn holding a stone sword, immune to fire damage, tall and black, as well as inflicting the wither effect. They are the only mob that can drop it's head without the use of a charged creeper, though it is very rare. Like skeletons, they can also ride spiders making a wither skeleton jockey.
- Skeletons rattle their bones while idle or moving. This can cue players to their presence.
- Skeletons have a rare chance of climbing ladders.
- Skeletons do more damage with a bow than with a sword of any kind, the former doing 3 damage and the latter doing 2.
- It is possible for skeletons to spawn mounted on a spider (called spider jockeys), but this chance is around 1%.
- While players can retrieve their own missed arrows, they cannot retrieve the missed arrows from a skeleton since it would provide an extremely easy arrow farming method.
- Skeletons can pick up dropped armor, items and pumpkins.
- Skeletons, just like zombies, won't burn in daylight if they wear a helmet or a pumpkin if they are in water, cobweb or aren't exposed to direct sunlight.
- Skeletons have a 20% chance of spawning in the Nether.
- Skeletons run away from wolves.
- Since 1.9, skeletons can spawn with a bow or a sword in their left hand.
- A skeleton's accuracy is based on a player's difficulty setting.
- On Halloween, skeletons and zombies have a chance to spawn wearing pumpkins.
- Skeletons without bows will run much faster. This is because the skeleton shares the same entity ID as a Wither Skeleton.
- Skeletons can't see through most transparent blocks.
- In older versions of Minecraft, skeletons held their bow as if it was any other item.
- Skeletons have a 0.04% chance of spawning wearing a full set of diamond armor.
- It is possible to give a skeleton a sword. This can potentially weaken a skeleton as they are no longer able to do far range damage. However, this also makes them move slightly faster.
- On recent versions, dying by their arrows will display as "(Player name)" was shot by Arrow" instead of "Skeleton."
- As of 1.13, skeletons, like zombies, now sink in water, however, they do not drown, they act just like they do on land and like players, the bows are weakened making fighting it easier. Though they will use their melee attacks if the player gets too close.
- The drop rate of the skeleton's bow seems to have a higher chance of dropping in the Bedrock Edition of Minecraft.
- Skeletons are unable to shoot crossbows. This was discovered using commands.
- If you replaced a skeleton's bow with a sword, it would still shoot arrows at the player.