Do Camels Have Toes? (Or Hooves?)

Similar to many other animals, camels do have toes. Camels have two large, even-sized toes on each foot. At the tip of each of those toes, there is a small nail that resembles a hoof. Camels neither have thumbs, nor paws.

Camels are even-toed ungulates. That means that they bear their weight equally on two toes: the third and fourth

do camels have toes

Camel’s foot morphology is characterized by metacarpal bones (bones that link the phalanges of the digits to the bones of the limb) that are splayed at their end, and the loss of ligaments between the toes. This allowed for the third and fourth digits to spread apart. The bones of their toes look like the letter “Y”. [1

Each toe contains three bones: proximal phalanx, middle phalanx, and distal phalanx. 

Between those two toes, there is an interdigital cleft (notch). And under each toe, there are three digital cushions enclosed in a common capsule. At the end of the toes, there are nails, around 1.5 inches wide (4 cm) and 2 inches long (5 cm) [2]

Dorsal computed tomography slice through the camel foot 1, Distal extremity of metatarsus articulating with the digit III; 2, Distal extremity of metatarsus articulating with the digit IV; 3, Proximal phalanx, compact bone; 4, Middle phalanx, cancellous bone; 5, Distal phalanx; 6, Fetlock joint; 7, Pastern joint; 8, Coffin joint

Figure: Dorsal computed tomography slice through the camel foot 1, Distal extremity of metatarsus articulating with the digit III; 2, Distal extremity of metatarsus articulating with the digit IV; 3, Proximal phalanx, compact bone; 4, Middle phalanx, cancellous bone; 5, Distal phalanx; 6, Fetlock joint; 7, Pastern joint; 8, Coffin joint | Source: Researchgate.net

First camels walked on tips of their hooves, while camels of today walk on their wide and padded feet. They developed spread-toed feet and broad and wide foot pads instead of hooves

They have a secondarily-digitigrade stance which means that move by placing their padded feet on the ground. 

Do Camels Have Webbings Between Their Toes?

Camels are mammals whose toes are split and have webbing between them. Their webbed feet allow them to keep their balance on the desert sand and cross huge distances without spending large amounts of energy.

Because of the webbing between the toes, a camel’s split-foot can reduce the pressure its body places on the ground, distribute its weight evenly, and prevent the animal from sinking into the sand. 

Why Do Camels Have Two Toes?

Through their evolutionary history,  as their weight increased, camels evolved from walking on the tips of their hooves to walking on two of their toes. Walking on their toes lengthened the camel’s legs, required less energy to walk, and allowed the animal to move faster and more silently.

Walking on toes has other benefits as well, as a smaller area of the animal is in contact with the ground. This means that there is less damage done to the animal’s legs because of the rough terrain, or hot desert sand.

First camels were small, had short limbs, and four-toed feet. As camels continued to evolve and became larger, they lost their side toes, developed long legs and two-toed feet. This foot adaptation allowed the camels to more efficiently traverse soft and sandy desert soil.

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Final Thoughts

And there you have it, “do camels have toes” explained in depth. Maybe even too deep. 

Camels have two even-sized toes on each of their foot. They are even-toed ungulates, which means they walk on 3rd and 4th toes. They have webbing between their toes, which allows them to move freely on the desert sand and conserve energy during long-distance walking.

Further reading: Do camels need shoes?


References

[1] Janis, Christine M., Jessica M. Theodor, and Bethany Boisvert. “Locomotor evolution in camels revisited: a quantitative analysis of pedal anatomy and the acquisition of the pacing gait.” Journal of vertebrate paleontology 22.1 (2002): 110-121.

[2] Badawy, Adel M. “Computed Tomographic anatomy of the fore foot in one-humped camel (Camelus dromedrus).” Global veterinaria 6.4 (2011): 417-423.


Photo Source

Computed Tomography of the Hind Limbs in Healthy Dromedary Camel Foot – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Dorsal-computed-tomography-slice-through-the-camel-foot-1-Distal-extremity-of-metatarsus_fig3_316916122 [accessed 9 Dec, 2021]

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