We call animals that have cloven hooves ‘even-toed ungulates’, and they all belong to the Artiodactyla order. These animals walk on hooves that are split into two toes, with some of them achieving impressive feats.
The most common animals with cloven hooves are:
- Mountain Goats
- Wild Boars
- American Bison
Scientific name: Giraffa camelopardalis
Giraffes are the biggest animals with cloven hooves, as they can reach almost 19 feet in height, and weigh over 2,500 pounds! For an animal of such status, they have surprisingly thin legs, and the hooves are no different.
The hooves of a large male giraffe can reach a size of 12×9 inches in diameter. Their hooves are flat, laying low to the ground to secure support for the massive animal.
Giraffe hooves might be the perfect example of evolutionary engineering, as they have to be able to bend down in a very awkward position to drink water. Despite that much pressure, hooves still dig themselves in the ground securely and giraffes rarely slip.
2. Mountain Goats
Scientific name: Oreamnos americanus
Mountain goats are known as the ultimate rock climbers, and they’re probably the most popular animals with cleft hooves. They live in a stretch from the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Range, mostly sticking to steep, rocky areas.
In order to move around safely, mountain goats have evolved into muscular and agile animals. This allows them to move without any reservation, and they’re the largest mammals found in extremely high habitats.
They were even spotted at heights greater than 13,000 feet!
Scientific name (family): Cervidae
There are many well-known subspecies of deer, like white-tailed deer and red deer, but they all use their hooves in the same way.
Not only are they great climbers and provide protection from rough terrain (hooves are tough, not soft like human soles), but they also use them for marking.
These cloven hooved animals scrape an area with hooves before urinating for marking it, and they also stomp in the same way horses and bulls do when they feel danger. Some deer have been spotted stomping the ground before charging at a threat.
4. Wild Boars
Scientific name: Sus scrofa
Boars are actually incredibly quick animals with hooves, and they owe that status to their hooves. Even though they’re bulky animals, their legs are thin and they can achieve speeds of 25 miles per hour.
Their lateral hooves (facing outwards) are shorter than medial hooves (facing inwards), which allows them to run quickly and turn at great speeds. Boars also use their hooves to dig into the frozen ground when looking for food.
They can reportedly dig four inches into the ground, using their hooves as an anchor.
5. American Bison
Scientific name: Bison bison
Bison are some of the heaviest animals with cloven hooves, often weighing more than 2,000 pounds. However, their powerful legs allow them to move quickly when running from predators.
In fact, Native Americans had a tough time herding them in the beginning, as bison can run at speeds greater than 40 MPH, even when they’re moving in herds.
Their hooves allow them to easily move on both soft and frozen ground, keeping them almost untouchable.
Scientific name: Hippopotamus amphibius
Another heavy animal with hooves, hippopotami can weigh more than 3,000 pounds, and their powerful legs allow them to gallop at 19 MPH. However, they rarely do that and they can’t keep the speed up for a long time.
Unlike all the other animals on this list, hippos are special hooved animals, as they don’t have real hooves. Instead, they have a pad of connective tissue on each foot. Despite their relation to pigs, they use all of their toes when walking.
Scientific name (genera): Gazella, Nanger, Eudorcas, Antilope
These four genera are referred to as ‘true antelopes’, and their hooves are all the same. A split down the middle of the hoof divides it into two equal halves, which makes it easy for them to walk in water and stand on mud.
Antelopes can also walk on sand and climb rocky areas without breaking a sweat. They’re some of the fastest animals with hooves, as they regularly have to run from cheetahs and other quick predators.
Scientific name (family): Rhinocerotidae
Another group of heavy animals with hooves, rhinos have three toes on each foot, and each toe is protected by a hoof. Their legs and their feet are much bulkier than those of a bison or a wild boar.
They can grow to be heavier than hippopotami, with males weighing over 5,000 pounds. Despite their size, rhinos can run at speeds of 31 MPH when provoked.
Scientific name (subgenus): Hippotigris
Even though zebras are mostly famous for their stripes, they’re very quick animals with thin legs and a spade-like toe covered with a hoof. Just like horses, zebra hooves allow them to run on hard terrain and keep them safe from tiny rocks.
To these herding hooved animals, hooves have developed for agility as well as speed. This allows them to reach a speed of 31 MPH when running, but also turn at great speeds – they’re often more agile than lions and hyenas.
Scientific name: Cervus canadensis
Elk have hooves almost identical to deer hooves. Unfortunately, they’re known in the zoologist community for elk hoof disease, discovered in the late nineties. The disease manifests through the deformation and breaking of hooves among elk.
With time, this can lead to lameness, which can be deadly for an animal in the wild. It is believed that the condition is caused by a particularly powerful type of dermatitis.
Scientific name: Okapia johnstoni
Okapis are possibly the rarest animals with hooves, as they’re endemic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they’re currently a threatened species.
At first, it was thought that okapi were forest-dwelling horses before Sir Harry Johnston discovered them. Today, we know that they’re a relative to giraffes and that they even have stripes like zebras.