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Do Sheep Have Hooves?

Do Sheep Have Hooves
Sheep on a forested hillside

Sheep have cloven hooves, meaning their hooves are split into two toes. Their hooves are vulnerable to debris buildup and need to be cleaned and maintained constantly.

Sheep hooves are am indication that sheep are related to other animals with cloven hooves, such as cattle, muskoxen, goats, and antelopes.

Sheep hooves are a vulnerable place of the body for the sheep. Because they’re often the only contact with the ground, the hooves often get in contact with mud and debris.

Sheep can’t effectively clean their hooves, so the farmer’s job is to make sure the hooves are clean and trimmed to prevent infections.

What Type of Hooves does a Sheep Have?

wild sheep

Sheep have cloven hooves. These hooves are split into two toes, meaning that these hooves will look as though the sheep has two toes.

A cloven hoof, or a split hoof, is very typical for mammals. Sheep, goats, pigs, deer, antelopes, and cattle all have them. Some animals with cloven hooves also have two claws, but that isn’t the case with sheep. 

The purpose of the cloven hoof is to give the sheep as much traction and grip as possible. This makes the hooves highly useful in rough terrain such as rocks and mountains where the sheep can use the hooves to climb.

The feet are dexterous, allowing wild sheep to overcome difficult terrains.

Like with most other domestic animals kept on farms, farmers need to take good care of the sheep’s hooves. This will minimize the chances of infection in hooves, which can cause permanent damage to the sheep’s feet but also make the sheep immobilized and unable to move.

See a list of 41 animals with hooves.

How to Maintain Sheep Hooves

sheep

Maintaining sheep hooves is essential to keep the sheep mobile and healthy, as it will prevent infection. Regular maintenance is needed, such as clipping the toes of the sheep and cleaning the hooves, which will not only make the sheep more comfortable but it will also prevent infections.

There are two main tasks that the farmer needs to maintain to keep the sheep’s hooves healthy and functional:

  • Regular trimming (every 6-10 weeks)
  • Hoof cleaning (every few weeks)

These two tasks can be done simulatenously, but the most important thing is the regularity of the task. Ideally, the farmer should do this every 6-10 weeks, but in some cases, it needs to be done even more regularly.

Hoof Trimming

sheep

The main signs that a sheep’s hoof needs trimming include:

  • Overgrown hoof walls – if the sheep has overgrown hoof walls, they will start to grow over the toes, which can be quite painful for the sheep
  • Growth on the heels – additionally, the hooves might start to grow on the heels of the feet
  • Difficulty walking

If you notice any of these signs, then you should trim your sheep’s hooves. Overgrowth and not enough maintenance can cause the sheep to not be able to walk properly, and it can also cause quite a lot of discomfort and pain. If you notice your sheep limping or not moving around much, then it might be time to consider trimming.

Hoof trimming is a regular task that needs to be done every 6-10 weeks, in general. However, if you start to notice the above-mentioned symptoms earlier, then you should do it more regularly.

For trimming, you’ll need some tools, so in case you don’t have them, you should consider hiring a professional for this. This way, you’ll be sure that the hooves are trimmed properly and that you don’t hurt the sheep while doing this. It is possible to make mistakes if you do it yourself.

Hoof Cleaning

dall sheep

Another type of maintenance that sheep’s hooves need is regular cleaning. You’ll need to clean the hooves constantly, especially if the hooves are dirty and haven’t been cleaned in a while. 

A dirty hoof will make it tough for the sheep to move around and it will be noticeable if you take a look at the hooves. Without regular cleaning, the hooves will start to collect dirt and debris. And if it is not cleaned from the hooves, it might lead to infection.

Hoof cleaning is necessary and it can be done by anyone, although it also needs to be precise. If it’s not done properly, you might hurt the sheep in the process. Again, it’s best to consult a professional to help you with it.

What are Sheep Hooves Made of?

Suffolk Sheep

Sheep hoves are made of keratin, a strong type of protein that allows the hooves to withstand the harsh weather as well as the rough environment that the sheep finds itself in.

In the wild, these hooves can get worn out because of regular use and difficult terrains that the sheep finds itself in. In captivity, this doesn’t happen as often because sheep are often in the safety of the farm and they’re not using the hooves to climb as much, so they don’t get worn out as easily.

Wild sheep also have more durable hooves compared to domestic sheep. The hooves have a hard outer shell and a softer inner portion, which makes the hooves more durable, so they’re able to cope with the environment more easily.

More importantly, wild sheep need their hooves to be more flexible so they’re able to climb easily. The hooves need to provide them with enough dexterity to be able to move around swiftly in their habitat, making it possible for them to navigate their area and climb mountains and rocks, which makes them safer from their predators.

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Conclusion

To conclude, sheep have cloven hooves. This type of hoof is made of two smaller hooves and they look like toes. While sheep don’t have claws, the hooves are made to help the sheep climb rough terrains and withstand the bad weather and harsh conditions of their habitat.

The hooves need to be cleaned and trimmed regularly to keep them healthy and safe from infections. The trimming needs to take place every 6-10 weeks to keep the hooves healthy and the sheep mobile.

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