Deer With Pointy-Toed Hooves

GON Staff | January 1, 2008

The deer Doug Carter killed in Ware County in 2006 had unusually long hooves that curled upward.

Doug Carter of Nichols sent GON this photo of a deer with extremely long hooves. He said he killed the deer during archery season 2006 in Ware County. When he killed the deer he didn’t notice anything unusual about how the deer was walking on the turned-up hooves.

“The deer came up behind me and came under my stand,” said Doug. “I didn’t notice him having any problem walking, and when I shot him he ran off. I didn’t notice the hooves until I started to drag him out, and all four hooves were the same way.”

The deer, a button buck that Doug shot for a doe, was in good shape other than its unusual footwear.

Doug’s father, a farmer, wondered if the deer wasn’t somehow getting too much high-protein feed and not enough roughage, a condition that can some- times cause the hooves of livestock to grow too rapidly. Doug said there were hog and chicken operations in the area where feed might be available.

GON forwarded the photo to WRD Biologist Charlie Killmaster in Fort Valley for his opinion on the unusual hooves.

“There are several things that can cause excessive growth in hooves,” said Charlie. “I don’t really think a definitive diagnosis could be made from the photo but here are a few potential causes:

“Lack of sufficient abrasion. Hooves, like fingernails, are made of keratinized epithelial cells and continue to grow to compensate for wear. Unusually long hooves is most common in areas with lots of marsh, such as southern Louisiana.

“An excess of a particular nutrient that is needed for or stimulates growth of epithelial cells and/or keratin. I have no idea which nutrient that may be.

“And finally, some kind of genetic defect is a possibility.

“Here’s one more tidbit, hooves typically grow at a rate of 5 to 6 centimeters (about 2 inches) annually.”

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