Do Cows Have Hooves: Exhaustive Facts About Cows Hooves


Having not been classified as ungulates (animals with hooves), there is some contradictory opinion if cows have hooves or not. While one group of people believes that cows have feet, others argue they have hooves. Let’s find out. 

Cows do have hooves that provide better support while traveling on rough terrain. The soles of the hooves are made from keratin, just like their hair and horns. The hard outer surface protects the inner structures, including bones, nerves, and blood vessels.

There are various things cows can do with their hooves; however, people are curious as to what these hooves are made of and why cows shouldn’t have feet, which we will address in the latter sections of this article. 

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What kind of Hooves Do Cows Have?

Not only do cows have hooves, but they also have a somewhat unique type of hooves that makes them special. Let’s find out what a cow’s hooves look like or what exactly their shape is. 

Cows have cloven hooves that are divided into approximately two equal parts, referred to as the claws. Cloven-hoofed animals possess two digits, comparable to the third and fourth fingers of the human hand. 

A cloven hoof is characterized by two toes that are clearly split, surrounded by hard material, and capable of some degree of free movement. These two divided parts are called the outer and the inner claw, and the area between them is called the cleft. 

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Why do Cows have Hooves?

The fact that cows are ruminant animals, and they are primarily domesticated makes you wonder why they need hooves in the first place. Let’s take a look at why cows have hooves.

The hooves of a cow play an essential role in its survival and functioning. Apart from supporting the animal body weight, cow’s hooves protect the internal tissue, provide traction and allow easy movement in rough terrains. 

The below-mentioned functions will help you understand why do cows have hooves- 

Support body weight

The weight of cows is approximately 800 kilograms, and the muscular effort created by the cow produces a considerable impact when the foot strikes the ground, which is why cows need hooves to carry on their weight effortlessly.

Protects the internal tissue

Anatomical structure of cow’s hooves is complex; this is where hooves turned out to be the best protective layer to shield those sensitive organs. Hooves are a rigid structure that helps to protect the delicate parts of hooves like a digital cushion, pedal bone, and white line. 

Allows easy movement in rugged terrain –  

In addition to protecting the more delicate structures inside, this hard covering of hooves supports the cow’s weight and absorbs shock as it moves. The cloven hooves of cows provide greater traction in rough terrain as they provide double the surface area. 

Why Do Cows Have Hooves Instead of Feet?

In contrast to horses, cows are not being used for work or competing in events. This makes you wonder, if they are mainly used to raise and produce milk, then why do they even need hooves? Read below to know why cows have hooves instead of feet. 

Hooves provide more incredible support and protection to cows. While it supports the massive body structure of cows, it also allows the cows to run or walk across rough terrain with greater ease and gives a greater protection than a soft paw or feet. 

The fact that cattle, particularly those used for draft purposes, have to walk in different terrains, including flat as well as rough terrain, places great strain and pressure on their legs and feet. This necessitates hooves that are designed to exert force while allowing the cow to walk efficiently. 

Additionally, soft feet are more likely to catch the infection, develop ulcers, develop heel erosions, and suffer from foot rot. However, thick hooves are more resistant to infection and disease. 

Do All Cows Have Hooves?

The fact that cows have hooves has led many people to ask the question: Do all cows have hooves or are there some breeds and genders that don’t? Let’s look into it. 

Regardless of the age and breed, all cows, including bulls, have hooves. Similar to horses, and other ungulates, hooves help to protect the feet and legs and allow easy movement even in rugged terrain. 

Despite the fact that all cows have hooves, the shapes and colors vary between breeds. Cows can have hooves of different colors, such as black, white, and even a color similar to their horn. 

Do Cows Feel Pain in their Hooves?

Considering the fact that cows develop hooves because they are hard and not sensitive like feet, does that mean they do not feel any pain in their hooves? 

Cows can suffer an unbearable amount of pain if their hooves are infected or develop any cracks. Hooves also hurt if they suffer from any injury due to an accident. If not treated right away, it may even lead to lameness in cows. 

In the hoof, sensitive parts are enclosed within a hard capsule. The hoof wall on the surface is similar to hair or nails in that it is not supplied with nerves and does not consist of living cells. But underneath that, the hoof underlies a vast array of specialized cells that can cause pain in certain conditions.

A bruise can cause damaged blood vessels and swelling inside the hoof. An abscess, on the other hand, is a painful condition that occurs when an infected area grows inside the hoof. 

Do Cows Have Nerves in their Hooves?

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Despite the fact that the outer part of the hoof lacks nerves, there is a diverse opinion on the hoof’s nerves. While some say there are no nerves in a cow’s hoof, others say cows have a bunch of nerves. Let’s figure out the truth. 

The lateral claw of cows’ hooves consists of nerves and blood vessels. Cows nerves make the hoofs extremely sensitive, and this is probably the reason cows feel pain in their hooves. 

There are many nutrients and blood vessels in the hoof pad, both of which are important to the growth of new hoof tissue. The hoof contains a large number of nerves, which makes the internal part of the hoof sensitive. 

Are Cows Hooves Hard?

According to popular belief, cow hooves are hard because there are nine layers. However, is that really the case? Are our cow hooves actually hard, or are they soft? 

The cow hoof consists of a hard outer casing or hoof horn, known as corium which helps to protect the horse hoof from rough terrains and sharp objects. However, the hooves are not very tough as they contain blood vessels and various sensitive tissues. 

In spite of the hardness and toughness of hooves, they wear down with repeated use. They grow back, as do fur, throughout the life of an animal.

Please have a look at the detailed anatomical structure of a cow’s hoof that will make you understand what’s inside the hoof and why they are hard. 

  • Wall horn– This is the first and outermost layer of the horn. It bears the most weight and is by far the strongest of all horns. It is equivalent to a fingernail in size.
  • Pedal bone– This triangular shaped bone is the main bone in the hoof and is equal to the bone at the end of our fingers. 
  • Corium of the sole – Corium is responsible for the growth of the new sole horn. This can cause damage to the corium and can lead to sole ulcers, bruising, and white line hemorrhage.
  • Digital cushion- When an animal walks, the digital cushion supports the pedal bone and absorbs and dissipates force under its heel.

Do Cows Have Feelings in their Hooves?

If cow hooves are hard and contain many layers, does that mean it doesn’t have any feeling in the hooves? Despite some arguing that cow hooves contain a lot of sensitivity, others believe they do not. Read below to know. 

The outer part of the hoof does not have any feeling because it is made of dead tissue; this is why they do not feel any pain during the trimming of nails. However, the internal part of the hooves has feelings due to the presence of nerves and other cells. 

The reason why cows’ hooves hurt when injured is that these cells and nerves have become damaged or hooves get cracked. However, this only occurs only when the inner part of the nail gets hurt. 

However, the hoof is not as sensitive as you might think. In fact, the hoof wall is really hard and strong and is similar to human nails, which are tough and do not have any feeling, so trimming nails is not a problem. 

What are Cows Hooves Made of? 

Even though cows have hooves, it is still uncertain what type of materials they are made of. Are they made of nerves and blood vessels, or is there something else? Let’s figure it out. 

Just like human nails and hair, cows’ hooves are also made of keratin  and water. The greater amount of keratin in the hoofs not only protects the hoofs but also allows the feet to bear the massive body weight of cows. 

As far as the composition is concerned, cow’s hooves and horse’s hooves are very similar. This is because both of them are made up of keratin. The only difference is cows have cloven hooves while the horse does not. 

Conclusion

To conclude, we can say that our beautiful innocent cows are hoofed animals. They have a unique set of cloven hooves that allow easy movement in rough terrains. And just like any other hoofs, they need to be trimmed at regular intervals to avoid infections and lameness. 

Vandana

I am Vandana, A budding lawyer and an animal lover. I spend my spare times with my pets and also love to research about different animal behaviors . My constant learning attitude keeps me exploring new understanding on Animals and my penchant for writing keeps me encouraged to do so. Apart from writing, I also like listening to soulful music, reading books, and being around animals.

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