Goats make no sense
July 12, 2012 8:13 PM   Subscribe

How do mountain goats walk over mountainous terrain with such alacrity, given that their feet are essentially stumps of keratin (i.e., hooves)?

So, it's pretty clear to me how monkeys and apes and people, with their opposable thumbs and independently moving toes, can move on rocky or arboreal terrain and maintain a good grip.

And, I can understand how animals with paws, like mountain lions, can handle mountainous terrain.

But how in the world do hooved animals manage it?

This question is inspired by this photograph that Jeb Corliss posted on Facebook...
posted by dfriedman to Pets & Animals (6 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Goat hooves, and I believe ungulate hooves in general, have a hard outer layer and a much spongier inner layer. That inner layer is exposed at the bottom of the hoof, so with downward pressure, the inner part compresses and the outer perimeter doesn't, creating two concavities on each hoof, which essentially grip the footing. And the spongy layer is very nonskid.
posted by bricoleur at 8:17 PM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: This is a pretty awesome guide to goat feet and climbing strategy. Goats are so fucking awesome. Totes.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:35 PM on July 12, 2012 [24 favorites]

Best answer: From the link - Snopes regarding that photo set (it's real, just wanted to post because there are cool videos in the link). I thought the first video was super boring until the ibex started to move and I realized what angle the camera was shooting from.
posted by hot soup at 8:36 PM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Bricoleur is absolutely correct. Goats that aren't on rocky terrain need to have the outer keratin layer trimmed off. Only the horny outer shell is cut back; cutting the spongy center will cause it to bleed or make the goat footsore. I used to trim my own milking goats with a hoof knife, but many people have a farrier do their domestic pet goats. The spongy foot is sensitive enough, but the young of any species work hard at developing proprioception, which is about more than just the feet.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:40 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One time hiking in the North Cascades we found a mountain goat skeleton at the base of a cliff. So they are not infallible.
posted by LarryC at 11:11 PM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers.

Very interesting.
posted by dfriedman at 5:16 AM on July 13, 2012

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