What is the difference between a dewclaw and a spur?
A dewclaw is a small digit on the foot of many mammals, birds, and reptiles. The dewclaw is at the back of each leg, above the ankle or foot. The dewclaw is mostly on the front feet, but can also be on the back feet. When the animal is standing it does not make contact with the ground.
Dogs, domestic cats, wild cats, lions, and cloven-hoofed animals, such as pigs and deer, have a dewclaw. Giraffes and horses do not have a dewclaw.
A spur is a bone covered in horn that grows out of an animal’s body. Spurs grow on the hind (back) feet. Some birds have spurs on the edge of their wings.
Not many animals have spurs. The male platypus has hollow, venomous spurs on the heels of its hind feet. The echidna has non-venomous spurs. The male spurfowl has two spurs on the back of its legs.
The dewclaw is not a dead appendage or claw. The dewclaw helps animals to grip their prey or food, and maybe to scratch themselves. Scientists also think that when animals run, the dewclaw digs into the ground preventing the leg from twisting.
Domestic and wild cats have a dewclaw only on their front legs, and not on their hind legs.
Hoofed animals walk on the tips of their hoof. Cloven-hoofed animals (animals that have a hoof split into two toes, such as cattle, deer, antelopes, gazelles, goats, and sheep) have an outer pair of dewclaws on each foot that are further up the back of their legs.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM