Sheep have cloven hooves, like other animals such as cows, goats, pigs, llamas, alpacas, buffalo, and others. A cloven hoof consists of two toes and they are very typical in ruminants and many other animals.
Because sheep have cloven hooves with a lot of space between the toes, you must provide good care of a sheep’s hoves. It’s easy for them to start collecting dirt and debris inside, so infections are quite common with sheep and their hooves. Proper hoof care is thus needed to maintain the good health of the hooves.
What is a Cloven Hoof?
A cloven hoof, also often called a split hoof or a divided hoof is a hoof where the toes are split into two.
It is very common with farm animals such as sheep, cows, pigs, goats, and other animals that belong to the family of Artiodactyla.
Cloven hooves are very typical for many farm animals. Sheep also have them. This characteristic is believed to stem from pre-history when marsh animals started developing two toes instead of four. That is because they were walking in marshes and only used their front two toes while having little use of the other two.
This has led sheep and other similar animals that lived in those areas to start developing cloven hooves. These hooves made the animals easier to move around and they were also more comfortable to them. They have kept them until today when they remain to be a vital part of the sheep’s body.
Cloven hooves also give the sheep flexibility when they are climbing. They are adaptable to different terrains – primarily pastures and grasslands, but they are also helpful if the ground is wet. Cloven hooves are also helpful for sheep if they climb rough terrains, but domestic sheep don’t do that.
Sheep also have two smaller claws behind their hooves, which are located higher on the sheep’s leg. These two claws have little use to sheep that don’t climb, but they can become useful for wild sheep breeds that might use them for climbing. These claws are leftovers from the times when sheep have four toes.
Why are Sheep Hooves Cloven?
The most important reason why sheep have cloven hooves is that it allows them to run and climb on different types of terrain since they are more flexible than other types of hooves out there.
Because sheep lived on rough terrains in the past, they have developed cloven hooves that enabled them to move around more swiftly and with ease. This is mainly thanks to the long evolutionary process that saw sheep develop two hooves instead of having four toes on their legs thanks to the differences of terrains they lived in.
Cloven hooves are important for sheep for moving around on different terrains. Initially, sheep found themselves in marshlands and other similar areas where they started only using their front two toes for moving around. This led to the development of the cloven hoof.
This type of hoof has become crucial for the movement of the sheep. It allows them to move more swiftly in rough terrains as well as grasslands, wet areas, and even frozen areas. They’re also helpful for when they are climbing, which is when the two smaller claws can come in helpful for the sheep.
Are Cloven Hoof Infections and Diseases Common?
Cloven hoof infections and diseases are very common in sheep and happen due to the buildup of debris between the hooves, lesions, and improper care from their owners. That’s why hooves need to be maintained properly.
Some hoof infections might happen because of external factors. For sheep, frozen or wet pastures might cause them to develop these infections that will need a lot of time to heal. Because sheep are not used to being on such grounds for longer periods, they will start to develop infections and potentially abscesses and other diseases.
However, infections that are caused by bacteria that enter wounds or stay between the hooves are much more common. This can happen if a sheep has a slight lesion in the hooves and then the bacteria enters with the debris into the wound, causing the infection to occur on the sheep’s hooves.
These infections will need some time to heal, and most often, the help of a professional or a vet. Sometimes, these infections can be treated with vaccinations and medications, but in most cases, the sheep will start limping and will need some rest before they can return to normal life.
Luckily, hoof diseases and infections can be avoided in sheep. This can be done with proper hoof care and with regular cleaning of the hooves. These need to be inspected now and then to make sure that there are no infections developing in the hooves, so that is one important job that the owner must do.
How to Properly Care for Sheep Hooves
To prevent infections in sheep hooves, it’s important that the farmer takes good care of the hooves of the sheep. They need to be maintained and checked regularly to see if there are any infections developing, but cleaning the hooves should also be important since that is how you can prevent those infections.
Some of the first signs that an infection is happening is that:
- A sheep is limping
- It appears “lame”, or it is not moving around at all
- The hooves have clear signs of infection such as maggots, abnormal growth or abscesses, blood, or other signs
Some of these infections will only be treated with medication and vaccination. But in more severe cases, you will need the help of a veterinarian that has experience with such infections.
More Articles About Sheep:
- When are Lambs Born?
- How Much Land does a Sheep need?
- Llama vs Sheep
- 9 Common Texas Sheep Breeds
- What Animal do Lamb Chops Come From?
Sheep have cloven hooves, which have developed thanks to the variety of terrains that sheep lived in. Initially, sheep had four toes but throughout evolution, they have developed cloven hooves, which allowed them to move around more easily and climb different terrains with more ease.
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