Ungulates are hoofed animals such as horses, donkeys, zebras, camels, giraffes, and deer. Hooves can be single (such as a horse’s hoof) or cloven (split into two parts). Deer, cattle, sheep, and goats have cloven hooves.
A hoof is the tip of a toe of an ungulate. It is made of keratin, a thick, hard covering. The sole of the hoof is partially rubbery, but hardens near the outer edges. There is also a hard wall formed by the solid nail rolled around the tip of the toe.
Humans keep animal’s hooves clean and trimmed. In the wild, animals have natural ways of keeping their hooves healthy.
Ungulates hooves grow continuously. To keep them trimmed and not overgrown, ungulates move around, especially over rocks and hard ground, which flattens excessive growth. Ungulates develop callouses (hard patched) on the soles of their feet, enabling them to travel over all types of terrain without discomfort.
Movement, particularly walking for long distances, helps blood circulation in the hooves, keeping them healthy.
A natural diet of grass also keeps hooves healthy.
In the wild, ungulates have hooves with thicker, stronger walls, and shorter toes, than in captivity.
To remove objects in hooves, animals will remove particles with their teeth, or by stamping their hooves on hard ground.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM