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Evolution of the Hoof

The earliest horses were tiny woodland creatures, the size of a housecat or small dog. They had a springy back and (usually) four toes in the front and three toes in the back. Over millions of years, as the horse grew in power and strength, those toes slowly disappeared, leaving one middle digit—the hoof.

Today, only the one-toed horse remains. It’s likely that the question of how the hoof evolved has plagued scientists since the moment the i rst fossil of a threetoed horse was found. Most agree that the hoof was an adaptation that promoted survival by allowing horses greater speed in order to evade predators. It makes sense: non-aggressive, herbivorous animals make ideal prey.

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Horse Illustrated Magazine
July 2019

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