Ready, set, here we go! Did you know that not all animals have feet that are called “feet”? Some animals have hooves, which they use as their “feet”. Hooves are hard coverings that protect the toes of many animals. They are more like really big, tough toenails. Hooves allow animals to walk for long distances on hard surfaces without damaging their toes.
Do you know what kind of animals have hooves?
Horses, donkeys, cattle, deer, goats, pigs, sheep, camels, bison, gazelles, rhinoceros’, zebras, hippos, moose, antelope and other kinds of animals all have hooves. Some animals, including horses and zebras, have a single hoof at the bottom of each foot. Want to know something super cool? There are animals that have toes on their hooves. How crazy sounding is that? They’re just like you, having toes on your feet.
Some of these special animals with multiple toes on their hoof are:
- Four-toed hoof – the pig, wild boar, hippopotamus & elephant
- Three -toed hoof = rhinoceros
- Two-toed hoof = deer, giraffe, bull, sheep and camel
Hoofed animals with an even number of toes (or a rounded front hoof) are called Artiodactyls. Artio means “even numbered” in Greek.
Hoofed animals with an odd number of toes are called Perissodactyls – Perisso mean “odd numbered” in Greek.
Why are hooves important to animals?
Did you know that all hoofed animals walk on the tips of their toes? That’s a lot of weight on a toe for big, heavy animals like horses, cows, elephants and giraffes. To hold the weight of their bodies, they need a strong, hard surface that doesn’t feel pain when they walk. Hooves help them walk and run on hard ground.
What are animal hooves made of?
Hooves are made of a protein created inside the animal’s body called keratin. This is the same thing that your body makes. Keratin also makes up hair, fingernails, horns, and feathers. Hooves are very hard and tough and they wear down with use. But like their hair, hooves continue to grow throughout an animal’s life. Does this sound familiar? Your hair and fingernails do the same thing. Humans have so many things in common with animals.
Do you know a hoof has 3 parts?
An animal hoof has 3 parts – the wall, sole and frog. The wall is simply that part of the hoof that is visible when the horse is standing. Like a house, walls hold up everything. The same is true for animals. The wall is made up of the toe (front), quarters (sides) and heel. Even many animals have heels like humans.
Did you know part of a hoof is called a FROG?
No, not the kind you’re probably thinking of. Inside the wall of the hoof is a spongy growth called the frog. It forms a “V” with the long pointed part extending to the center of the hoof. The frog is like a cushion. Without the frog, an animal’s leg bones could be hurt from walking on hard surfaces. This part of the hoof is not made of keratin, and it can feel pain. So it’s super important to keep the frog protected and safe. Fun fact: This part is called the frog because it resembles the pelvic bone of the amphibious frog.
Animal Hooves are Flexible & GRAB Surfaces.
Do you know what “flexible” means? It means that something can bend easily without breaking. For animals and humans, this is very important. As an animal puts weight on their hooves, especially when they’re running, the hoof flexes and returns to its original shape over and over. This lets the hoof “grab” whatever surface they’re standing or running on. This allows the animals to have better control over their movements.
In just one month, the average hoof grows a quarter-inch or more.
On rocky surfaces horses can naturally file their hooves to a safe length, but when horses wear shoes or spend most of their time on softer surfaces, they need someone who can help to keep them comfortable. These people are called ‘farriers’.
Do animal hooves feel pain?
The hard exterior of your horse’s hoof is made of keratin. This durable protein is the same stuff that makes up human fingernails and hair. Just like how you don’t feel pain when you trim your fingernails or get a haircut, horses don’t have feeling in this part of their hooves. There are no nerves, and that’s why farriers can hammer horse shoes in without hurting the horse.
What is a Farrier – An Animal “SHOE” Doctor.
A farrier is a professional who specializes in taking care of hooves! Their job is to trim and shoe horse’s hooves. Farriers studied about horses but especially their hooves. They know when a horse needs shoes to correct balance, hoof damage and withstand different weather conditions. They are like a “shoe doctor” for horses.
Most horses must be seen by a farrier every six to eight weeks. Remember, we told you earlier that hooves grow ¼” every month. Just like your nails, hooves have to be trimmed regularly to keep them healthy and from getting in the way.
Why do horses wear “shoes”?
Working animals, especially horses, benefit from having metal shoes attached to the bottom of their hooves. These horseshoes protect the hooves from cracks and too much wear. People nail the shoes on the hoof wall. This does not hurt the horse because the hoof wall is dead tissue.
Horseshoes are commonly made of steel, but aluminum and plastic glue-on models are also popular. A wide variety of options are available to ensure that each horse gets the perfect fit for their needs and comfort.
Most foot care practices can be done by the average horse owner. However, it is important to know when to seek the help of a professional, especially for corrective shoeing and disease treatment and control.
Pick out your horse’s feet daily.
- Before you ride – to remove any stones or small objects lodged in his feet
- After your ride – in case something has gotten stuck in his feet during the ride
- When you bring him in at night – to check for objects in his feet, or for injuries from being in the field
- Before morning turnout – to remove manure and check for overall healthiness
Know the healthy condition of your horses’ hoof
Schedule regular farrier visits according to your horses needs
- All horses require regular hoof care, but not all horses need horseshoes! For many horses, only regular trims are necessary for maintaining healthy hoof length and shape.
If your horse has shoes, check them each time you pick his feet. Know how to remove a shoe in emergency situations.
Help your horse grow the best possible hooves with a proper, nutritional diet, add a BIOTIN supplement and give them consistent exercise. Exercise increases circulation to their hooves and promotes growth.
Try to avoid changing weather conditions too regularly for your horse. Alternating between damp and dry environments too often can cause damage to horse hooves and shoes.
We hope you enjoyed learning about animal hooves and hoof care. It’s always fun to share information as Pawtectors. If you don’t have horses or farm animals and this interests you, check with your parents to see if there is a local Animal Rescue Farm Sanctuary. Farm Rescues are Super Heroes too! They are a great place for you to learn even more about animals with hooves (and maybe even volunteer!). Visiting or volunteering with rescues that save farm animals will help make a difference in their adoptable animals’ lives too!
7 Hoof Care Tips to Keep Horses Hooves Healthy & Strong: www.practicalhorsemanmag.com
Join the Pawtector’s PawSquad today – www.thepawtectors.org. Learn about “Animals Around the World” during your FREE 14-day on-line trial. Super Heroes for Animals – fun monthly mission plans, activities, ways to help homeless animals year-round. For Kids & Teens, 5-17.