Mammals with hoofed toes are called “Ungulates.” Hooves are modified toenails that grow in layers around the toe. It is made of keratin and grows continuously. There are two types of ungulates, odd-toed hooves as horses & rhinoceros, and even-toed hooves, such as deer, pigs & cattle.
Hooves protect the toes, bearing body weight and dissipating impact energy when the foot hits the ground, protecting the tissue and bone in the foot and providing traction. They also help the animal to run very fast.
Animals in the wild naturally wear them down just by walking around. However, captive animals on a farm don’t wear down their hooves naturally and thus need hoof care and trimming. In this article, we will look at 13 animals that have hooves.
13 Animals With Hooves
Cows, and most livestock animals, have hooves that are divided into two. This two-toed hoof shape is also known as a “cloven” shaped hoof. A cloven hoof, cleft hoof, divided hoof, or split hoof is a hoof split into two toes found on members of the mammalian order Artiodactyla. These split hooves provide the surface area needed to hold the cow’s weight when walking and let the two parts act independently.
Farm cows, especially dairy cows, need trimming of their hooves as they can become lame from hooves grown too long, uneven, or split. Therefore, regularly trimming their hooves by humans to an optimal length ensures their health and productivity.
Pigs are another species that have cloven-shaped (two-toed) hooves. This provides them with more stability when walking. However, sometimes pigs can have fused hooves, making it harder for heavier or larger pigs to walk on.
Pet pigs need their hooves to be trimmed regularly by the owner or the vet. This is because overgrown hooves can cause wounds and make walking difficult. Typically, pigs walking around on hard-standing surfaces wear down their hooves naturally, so they don’t need trimming.
Elk are large majestic creatures. The male’s antlers can grow up to 4 feet long. Although wild animals, they also have cloven-shaped hooves with rounded toes. This hoof shape makes their tracks look like elongated hearts.
Unfortunately, elk face a disease called TAHD, treponeme-associated hoof disease. This is a bacterial infection that can cause disfigured hooves and lameness. It is thought the bacteria may spread in moist soil.
Deers are well known for being fast and for their ability to leap. This is because their hooves are stronger and more resistant to cracking than bone due to the structure of keratin in their hooves. This allows them to run and jump with such force while moving all that body weight around.
Although deer hooves are cloven, they also have a structure called dew claws behind and above their split hooves. The two dew claws on each foot provide deer a broader platform to move around when they travel through mud or snow. They will also use their hooves as defense mechanisms to strike predators with a powerful kick.
Horses have one hoof on each foot that bears their whole weight, unlike the split between two toes like deer or elk. Their hooves grow around 0.25 inches per month to a length of 3 to 4 inches, so technically, they regrow a new hoof every year.
You are probably aware of horseshoes. Horses are usually kept for farming, sport, ranching, pulling carriages or other entertainment. These activities differ significantly from living in the wild and strain their hooves excessively. Therefore, metal ring-shaped “”shoes”” are nailed into the outer rim of the hoof with no pain receptors to reinforce the hoof and give it extra power and protection from being worn down and cracked.
Zebras also have one toe on each foot, surrounded by a hoof like a horse, but Zebra hooves tend to be harder than horse hooves. Their hooves are incredibly durable, with smaller and more oval shapes, a broader heel, and a more open frog. They have powerful, thin hind legs that help them outrun predators in the wild. The hooves are almost pointed in the mountain zebra (Equus zebra), appropriate for their rocky and more challenging terrain.
Zebras often trot when moving to new pastures, which is a reasonably fast but easy gait for them to use over the long distances they may have to travel. These animals are known to run over 40 miles per hour. Their hard hooves are designed to withstand their body weight’s impact and sprint over rocky ground.
Rhinos are odd-toed ungulates, with three toes on both the front and hind feet, and each toe encased with a hoof. This huge animal weighs an average of around 4,000 to 5,000 pounds. That is a lot of weight to lug around and puts a lot of pressure on each foot.
So, their three toes create a pad that more evenly spreads this pressure across the foot, with the highest pressure in the center. These padded soles also cushion their legs and offer shock absorption when they walk.
With their long legs and neck, Giraffes are known for being the tallest mammal worldwide, growing up to 19 feet tall. Their hooves are also huge at around 12 inches in diameter. The large surface area holds up their weight and prevents them from sinking into loose sand.
Interestingly these animals don’t walk, similar to most four-legged species. Instead, they swing their legs on the same side almost simultaneously, making them walk in a swaying, sideways motion. However, they don’t use this motion when they run.
9. Bison / Buffalo
Bison are the largest land mammals native to North America. Similar to cattle, they have two toes on each foot. A male bison can grow 6 feet tall and weigh up to 2,000 pounds.
These animals live mainly on the Great Plains and graze on sedges, grasses, and sometimes berries. As the bison grazes, they introduce air into the soil with their hooves, which helps plants grow. They also disperse native seeds that stick to their hooves, making them essential for maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
Goat hooves are cloven with a curved shape that adds strength and balance. The goat also has two dewclaw hooves higher up on the back of its pastern-like ankle. These smaller hooves are not meant for walking but aid in maintaining traction. Their cushy sole offers traction for sloped surfaces to help them climb and will deform inward to absorb any terrain irregularities.
In the wild, a goat’s natural habitat is on mountain cliffs or foraging through a dirt forest floor and rough terrain. The hoof is naturally worn down in this environment and kept to a proper length.
But the hoof is kept from being worn down in a farmyard setting where they stand on lush green pasture or a stall filled with straw or other soft bedding. As a result, it will continue to grow and should be trimmed to avoid health problems.
Camels have two toes on each foot. Its hoof appears like a toenail that grows at the front of each toe. Cows and horses usually have this type of “cloven” shaped hoof, which helps them walk. But a camel usually walks on a broad pad that connects its two long toes.
This cushion-like pad spreads when the camel places its foot on the ground. The pad supports the animal on loose sand in much the same way that a snowshoe helps a person walk on snow. Interestingly, the camel’s cushioned feet make almost no sound when the animal walks or runs.
The hippos, however, do not fit into two classifications of even or odd-toed ungulates. Hippos’ foot looks very different from that of a horse or a deer, but they still have hooves. Hippopotamus is an even-toed hoofed mammals, but their hooves are a bit different.
The hippo hoof is more like nails, similar to Camels from the desert. The strong covering only partially covers their feet like other ungulates. Instead, it covers a small part of the front. But it helps them, however, with balancing & running. Scientists think it is more closely related to whales and dolphins than other even-toed hoofed mammals.
Tapir (genus Tapirus) is the only extant member of the family Tapiridae (order Perissodactyla), found in tropical forests of Malaysia and the New World. The feet of these perissodactyl mammals have an odd number of toes, like the horse and the rhinoceros. In addition, Tapirs have hooves that extend from the front edges of each toe, and the underside of their foot is soft and padded, more like a paw than a hoof.
Tapirs, adapted to walking on soft ground, have four toes on their forefeet and three on their hind feet. In the case of a single toe, hooves almost cover the toe, but tapirs, by contrast, have hooves covering only the leading edge of the toes, with the bottom being soft.