2019—It’s the Hooves

Did you ever wonder how Bighorn Sheep manage to climb rock faces so effortlessly? It is their hooves. The structure of a Bighorn Sheep’s hooves is unique and quite different from the hard hooves of cattle and horses. Their hooves have a flexibility that allows excellent agility and helps them climb steep terrain that keeps them safe from predators. According to the National Wildlife Federation, “the outer hooves are modified toenails shaped to snag any slight protrusion, while a soft inner pad provides a grip that conforms to each variable surface.” This combination gives them traction on slippery rocks and the ability to climb sheer cliffs. They can cling to a 2 inch ledge on the side of a rock and maneuver gracefully down a cliff face. I’m certain the structure of their hooves is the envy of every mountaineering boot manufacturer. Here are a couple of examples that show how Desert Bighorn Sheep use those hooves. They look quite different from the hooves of other ungulates.

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