42. Macroscopic Claw Length 2006

European Association of Zoo- and Wildlife Veterinarians (EAZWV)

6th scientific meeting, May 2 4 – 28 – 2006. Budapest, Hungary




1. Institute of Veterinarian Anatomy, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 260, CH-8057 Zurich Switzerland; tina@gmx.de

2. Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation, P.O. Box 44069, Doha, State of Qatar

3. Division of Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 260, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland
Extended abstract

An imbalance of growth and abrasion of the horn capsule results in overgrown hooves in ungulates. Genetic background, nutrition, and husbandry influence the growth. To avoid secondary damages and lameness caused by overgrown hooves, a functional hoof trimming should be performed in animals with overgrown hooves. The knowledge of the physiological hoof shape of different species simplifies the hoof trimming by reducing time of treatment.

Within the scope of this thesis, hooves of 137 gazelles were prepared (mazeration and sagittal sawing) to measure the size of the horn capsule and internal structures. The seven examined species belong to the subfamily of gazelle-like species: Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra), Chinkara Gazelle (Gazella chinkara pakistani), Mountain Gazelle (Gazella gazella), Arabian Sand Gazelle (Gazella subgutterosa marica), Dorcas Gazelle (Gazella dorcas spp.), Soemmering Gazelle (Gazella soemmeringi berberana) und Speke’s Gazelle (Gazella spekei).

The horn capsule has the ability to grow up to two to three times the length of its physiological shape, whereas the internal structures (Phalanx III and Corium) show a constant size within a species, as summarized in Table 1. Hammer et al. (2004) established this hypothesis by examining claws of Soemmering, Speke’s and Pelzens Gazelles. The measured parameters – dorsal wall length (DWL), diagonal length (DL), width and dorsal angle of the horn capsule are of practical use for hoof trimming. Further parameters like length and angle of Phalanx III and Corium, thickness of sole, heel and wall describe the internal structures. Significant differences were found in gender and localisation of the claw.

For example:

– the claws of male gazelles are in general broader and steeper than those of female animals

– the horn wall of the hindlimb is longer than of the frontlimb

– the claws of the frontlimb are wider than of the hindlimb

A comparison between juvenile and adult groups showed a significant difference between the group of 5-8 months old and adult Chinkara Gazelles whereas the difference between the group of 9-16 months old and adult Dorcas Gazelles was not significant.

By collecting further data on hooves, more species-specific parameters might be worked out for other ungulates; for the practice of functional hoof trimming, species-specific, self-made yardsticks could be prepared. Fowler (1979, 1980, 1986) described the trimming of claws of wild ungulates. In general the technique is equivalent to the technique in domestic animals: first cut the medial claw, then shorten the lateral claw in the same length, model a concave shape in the axial sole and finally eliminate necrotic horn substance (Toussaint Raven 1985). The major time-limiting step of this procedure in zoo animal veterinary practice is first, the shortening of the medial claw to an appropriate length. Usually, this is performed by repeated, gradual removal of several layers of hoof horn. This procedure step is distinctively shortened if the species-specific “normal” claw length (including a safety margin) can be used, possibly in the form of a yardstick device. Especially if a larger number of animals shall be handled within a short period of time, therefore, standard measures of the horn wall can significantly reduce the individual’s handling time and hence the time necessary for the overall procedure. In large breeding facilities, standard hoof measurements could be used as one of several selection criteria for the inclusion in, or the exclusion of, certain individuals from breeding programs.

Table 1: Species-specific parameters of the horn capsule (mean and standard deviation) for use in claw trimming

Species (Scientific name) DWL DL α Width (f/h)
Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) 30.8 ± 2.3 44.9±3.2 57.7 ± 3.3 17.0/15.5
Chinkara gazelle (G. bennetti) 30.1 ± 2.8 44.1±3.2 43.8 ± 4.0 13.1/11.7
Mountain gazelle (G. gazella) 30.7 ± 2.8 43.2±2.8 43.3 ± 2.5 12.7/11.1
Arabian sand gazelle (G. subgutterosa marica) 29.3 ± 1.5 45.6±2.0 48.5 ± 5.6 15.6/13.3
Dorcas gazelle (G. dorcas) 29.2 ± 2.9 41.9±2.3 45.6 ± 3.7 12.8/11.1
Soemmering gazelle (G. soemmeringii) 38.3 ± 2.9 54.7±3.6 44.4 ± 2.5 17.5/14.9
Speke’s gazelle (G. spekei) 27.9 ± 1.5 40.6 ± 0.9 42.0 ± 1.3 10.7/9.9

DWL: (Internal) Dorsal Wall Length (mm)

α: Dorsal Angle in °

DL: Diagonal Length (mm)

Width (mm): f=frontlimb, h=hindlimb



1. Fowler Me (1979): Hoof problems in Zoo animals. Proc.Ann.Meet.Am. Assoc.ZooVet. 88-106

2. Fowler Me (1980): Hoof, claw, and nail problems in Nondomestic Animals. JAVMA. 177: 885-893

3. Fowler Me (1986): Hoof, nail and claw problems in mammals. In: FOWLER ME (ed.) Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine, 2nd ed. W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, PE, 550-556

4. Hammer S, Hammer C, and Clauss M (2004): Determination of species-specific standard hoof measurements in captive wild ruminants: a practical approach to a common problem. EAZWV. 5th scientific meeting, May 19.-23. 2004, Ebeltoft, Denmark, 5: 273-274

5. Toussaint Raven E (1998): Klauenpflege beim Rind. Landwirtschaftskammer Hannover. Universität Utrecht

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