Cornified Shoes

Cow Hooves (photo credit  Doug Powell)

Cow Hooves (photo credit Doug Powell)

Cow Hooves

Don't think I've forgotten about the larger animals.  Because, this week I'm writing about cow hooves.  Cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs are cloven-footed animals.  Meaning that the hoof consists of two digits instead of one solid entity like that of a horse. The two digits are analogous to the third and fourth fingers of the human hand. The claws are named by their relative location on the foot.  There is the outer or lateral claw and the inner or medial claw. In cattle, the lateral claw is slightly larger on the back feet, while the medial claw is the larger claw of their front feet.  The space between the two claws is called the interdigital clef; the area of skin is called the interdigital skin. The different surfaces of the claws are named according to their relative position to the interdigital cleft: The abaxial surface is the outer wall of each claw, and the axial surface is the inner wall.  The hoof is described from the outside moving in.  Beginning with the hard outer covering of the hoof, known as the hoof wall or horn.  The horn is a hard surface, structurally similar to the human fingernail, but functioning like the epidermis of the skin. The cells that form the horn are produced by the tissue directly beneath the hoof wall, called the corium, at the hoof head. The corium is a nutrient-rich tissue that contains many important blood vessels and nerves inside the hoof.  The corium is similar to the quick of the fingernail in humans in that it continuously produces new cells that are then gradually pushed away from the quick. As the cells are pushed away from the corium they die and produce the hard, new outer growth that we see both in our own nails and in hoof growth. At this point the cells are said to have been keratinized or cornified.  As a general rule, bovine hooves grow about 1/5 to ¼ of an inch per month.  Cow hooves also serve a purpose to humans also.  People have made them into soup, tools, and even shoes.  It’s not really my thing, but hey, creativity is good isn’t it?

To see real cow hoof shoes, among other things, click here to watch my video.

Diagonal Digitigrades

Cat paws (Photo credit, Getty Images)

Cat paws (Photo credit, Getty Images)

Cat paws

 It's the cats turn for the spotlight this week.  As we focus on cat paws.  Cats, like dogs, are digitigrades.  Which means they walk directly on their toes, with the bones of their feet making up the lower part of the leg.  Felines are unique, they directly register; that is, they place each hind paw almost directly in the print of the corresponding forepaw, minimizing noise and visible tracks. This also provides sure footing for their hind paws when they navigate rough terrain.  And makes them capable of walking very precisely.  Also, the two back legs are muscular to allow falling and leaping far distances without injury.  There are seven pads on the front paws made up of five digital pads, one central or plantar pad that takes most of the weight, and a small wrist pad.  The hind paws on the other hand (or should I say "paw")  have only five pads, four are digital and there is one plantar pad.  Unlike most mammals, when cats walk, they use a "pacing" gait; that is, they move the two legs on one side of the body before the legs on the other side. This trait is shared with camels and giraffes. As a walk speeds up into a trot, a cat's gait will change to be a "diagonal" gait, similar to that of most other mammals.  Cats are a lot more agile than dogs are, and much of this has to do with their paws and the way they walk.
To see paw anatomy, watch my video by clicking here