A cloven hoof is a hoof which is split into two distinct segments. Deer, cattle, and goats all have cloven hooves, among other mammals, and animals with cloven hooves are generally found in the order Artiodactyla. In biology, cloven hooves can help to distinguish an animal, and they are also considered important for religious reasons because some religions involve cloven hooves in their dietary restrictions.
The shape of a cloven hoof involves two toes which are clearly split and surrounded by hard hoof material. The toes may also be capable of some limited independent movement, and they are subject to the same diseases of the hoof that single-hooved animals have. In addition, an animal with cloven hooves may also have horns; the only animals with true horns also have cloven hooves. Many animals in this order are also ruminants, meaning that they have specially adapted digestive systems to make it easier to extract nutrition from plant material.
In some religious faiths, people can only eat meat from animals with cloven hooves; some religious may also specify that these animals must also be ruminants. This is why observers of the Jewish faith eat beef, but not pork, because while both animals have cloven hooves, pigs are not ruminants. Many Christians are familiar with the section of the Bible which covers clean and unclean animals, in which the cloven hoof is an important distinguishing feature. The cloven hoof has also been associated in some cultures with the devil; Satan is often depicted with cloven hooves in Christian religious art and writing, for example.
The tracks left by a cloven hoof are quite distinctive. In regions with wild populations of ungulates like deer, the small double pockmarks of cloven hooves in the soil are quite common, and they are used for trailing these animals in their natural environment. The tallest member of Artiodactyla is the giraffe, which sports a special set of cloven hooves designed to support the giraffe's unique skeletal structure.
Care for livestock and animals with cloven hooves is important. The hooves must be regularly trimmed to prevent excessive growth, and they should ideally be cleaned, especially in the cleft, to make sure that the hoof stays healthy and dry. Hooved animals in general also need to be kept on dry, clean bedding, as their hooves can become severely infected if they are exposed to moisture, mold, and bacteria. Many of these animals are trained to lift their feet for examination and handling so that their owners can be assured that they are in good health.
Do All Animals With Cloven Hooves Have Antlers?
Most of the cloven-hooved animals have some kind of cranial appendage. Many animals have cloven hooves, such as:
Oxen and antelope have relatively simple bony protrusions that are often shaped in a twisted, fluted or spiral form and permanently covered in a keratin sheath. Keratin makes up the primary part of human hair, fingernails and toenails.
Cervids are members of the deer family. Caribou are the only cervids in which some females bear antlers. Antlers grow from a pedicle, an attachment point on the animal's skull. Have you ever noticed that an antler looks like it feels velvety? This is because while the antlers are growing, highly vascular skin covers it to keep the rapidly growing bone supplied with the essential nutrients and oxygen. This skin has a velvety appearance and texture and only stays until the antlers are fully grown. When the velvet is gone, the antler bone dies, revealing the mature antler, which will fall off after a while. The animal will grow another set of antlers the following year.
You've probably noticed the horn-like protuberances on giraffes' heads. These are called ossicones and are derived from ossified cartilage. Ossicones are similar to the horns that cattle and antelopes don, and they remain covered in skin and fur rather than eventually exposing the bone like those of the deer family.
Cloven Hoof vs Hoof of Other Varieties
Animals with hooves are also known as ungulates which mainly consists of large mammals, like those you commonly see at the zoo. Additionally, all hooved animals are mammals. There are many different types of hooved animals, but the types of hooves can vary widely in size and shape, from odd-toed ungulates to even-toed. Horses, tapirs and rhinoceroses are a few examples of odd-toed ungulates. The even-toed variety consists of pigs, giraffes, sheep, cattle, deer, camels and hippopotamuses.
So, what exactly is a hoof, anyway? The hoof is considered the tip of the toe on a hoofed animal, and it includes a stiff, rubbery sole surrounded by a hard wall of a thick type of keratin covering. Like human nails, keratin is the main component in an animal's toenail. However, the animal's toenail is rolled around the tip of its toe. Hoofs are made to withstand the sometimes extreme weight of the animal, and typically the weight is carried pretty evenly throughout the hoof area, both on the sole and the edge of the hoof wall. Certain animals like giraffes have uniquely formed hooves to support the animal's unique structure, for which weight distribution is more of a factor.
Like our fingernails and toenails, hooves are continually growing. However, animals tend to keep them at an acceptable length through everyday use, unlike humans, who must regularly clip and file their nails. Farm animals and other hoofed creatures raised in captivity usually require some maintenance to keep their hooves trimmed. They also must be checked for and kept clear of potential risks like excess moisture and bacteria.
A cloven hoof is also commonly referred to as a split hoof, cleft hoof or divided hoof. This type of hoof is split into two toes, also known as even-toed. Only ungulates of the mammalian order Artiodactyla have this hoof style. Typically, the cloven hoof includes two primary hooves on each leg. Many animals with cloven hooves also have two dewclaws above each hoof. The dewclaws basically act like smaller feet, often assisting with navigating more unstable surfaces like snow, mountainsides or uneven ground.
You may assume that all ungulates are land dwellers, but there are some exceptions to the rule. Whales, dolphins and porpoises are Cetaceans that are surprisingly classified as even-toed ungulates. They no longer have hooves, but research has shown that they descended from early Artiodactyls. Over millions of years, these mammals adapted to the water by replacing their hooves with flippers, also known as their pectoral fins.
Do Pigs Have Cloven Hooves, and Are They Herbivores?
Many ungulate species are considered ruminants, which means they utilize a specific form of gut bacteria to digest cellulose. Pigs do not have this type of digestive system. While most ungulates are herbivorous, pigs are one of the only species of hooved animals that are omnivorous. So, although pigs have cloven hooves, pork is not kosher in terms of the food they produce because pigs do not chew their cuds. This is why people of the Jewish faith do not consume pork, as pigs are considered unclean animals.