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How the horse became the only living animal with a single toe | Animal Facts

Horse- The Only Living Animal With A Single Toe

Animal Facts

Animal Facts

Animal Facts–  A new study claims that ancient horses had four toes on their front feet and three on their back but modern houses have just one. Read on to understand why and how!

Ferocious horses can reach speeds of more than 40km per hour, with extraordinary skills to clear barricade more than eight feet high and they can also twirl- all that in one toe on each foot.

Researchers have concluded how why horses can do these unusual activities.

Did you know that horses had multiple digits on their feet once upon a time? The multiple digits along with their early ancestors with four on their front feet and on the back, three.

It has been speculated and concluded that this shift was definitely related to horses moving from forest to grassland environments. However, it’s still unclear how this phenomenal change happened.

Animal Fact-However, this riddle or brain puzzle has been solved by researchers apparently. Brianna McHorse, first author of the research at Harvard University said, “The centre digit was compensating simultaneously for increasing body size and reducing side digits – which is definitely not something we knew before”. The researchers also revealed how micro CT scanning- a type of 3D x-ray imaging to scrutinize fetish bones of 12 extinct horses. Each of the horses was of a different genus including a dog-sized horse Hyracotherium that lived about 45 years ago.

The team examined different types of horses like South America tapir to compare them and investigate more properly. Computer models were also used to inquire into the stress placed on the bones when the horses moved, jumped or accelerated.  McHorse said, “That is going to put more stress on the bone and it reflects the times when the animals would need to quickly get away from a predator or something.”

The team designed models for each situation and inspected what would happen when the full body weight of the horse was only applied to the central toe. And how the body weight was shared between the central toe and side toes if any. The results acknowledged that the ability of the foot to withstand or tolerate load was increased and greater when the horse was placed purely on their central toe and also being spread over the side toes. This side toe thus has an important and critical role in bearing load.

Animal Facts- McHorse added that as the locomotion increases, the ability to bear the load in the side toes also expand otherwise it may cause the fracture in the bone due to all stress loaded on one side.

The body mass of the horse increases and the reason behind this is mainly behind the reduction in the number of toes. With one single strong toe, the horses are able to withstand greater bending forces compared to three toes which have the same bone mass.

McHorse also explained, “It is very energetically expensive to have a bunch of toes on the end of that leg”. “If you get rid of them then it costs less, energetically speaking, to swing that leg for every step.”

 This study was extremely exciting for other researchers also like Robin Bendrey, a zooarchaeologist from the University of Edinburgh.

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1 reply »

  1. I love this! My family and I have visited museums with horse skeletons from many, many years ago. I can’t imagine my 3 horses with different “feet” 🙂

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