“Are horse legs fingers? What kind of a crazy and confusing question is it? I have believed for my whole life that my horse has legs on which he walks. How can they be fingers? Inconceivable. They are nowhere to be seen!”
You are not alone if you are asking this question right now after reading the title of this blog – a lot of us have the same opinion, and all of us are bewildered when we hear such a statement. But chill. We will explain here in detail and with evidence what we found out in our quest to answer this question.
So, let us keep our fingers crossed and dig in!
Are Horse Legs Fingers?
Briefly, yes, horse legs are fingers. Unlike humans, equines walk on their giant fingers, covered by hooves. Horse fingers are there, but most of us believe them to be their legs. Above all, since horse fingers do not resemble those of human beings, we naturally never give this question a second thought. But it is not the case anymore – thanks to science – we can finally say for sure that horses have fingers!
Having known the basic answer, it is about time we dig deeper and eliminate all doubts. However, before we do so, know that not the whole horse leg can be called a finger: anatomically, only the portion below the carpus (or the knee) fits the definition of fingers. Also, note that both horse toes and horse fingers are the same.
Comparison With Human Beings
To begin clarification, a comparison of horses’ legs to human beings’ arms is vital. The whole crux of the answer, in fact, lies in this contrast.
Horse legs are quite similar to human arms – they extend from the body, can move in certain directions, and have elbow, wrist, metacarpal bones, and phalanges. Nevertheless, the wrist in horses is commonly called the knee, or in scientific terms, carpus.
Surprisingly, when analyzed below the knee, horse legs turn out to be quite similar to human fingers – more precisely, the middle finger. It looks as if a huge middle finger is extended all the way down to the hooves. Three metacarpal or cannon bones in each limb of horses extend from the knee to the fetlock joint, below which begins the actual finger. Other than that, the structure of phalanges is also similar to the middle finger in humans.
The following visual aid can help you understand the concept better:
Did You Know?The distal phalanges, bones at the tip of the arm, in human beings are equivalent to coffin bones in horses. Coffin bones are named so because they are ‘buried’ completely inside the hooves as if the human body is buried inside a coffin. They are also called pedal bones because they ‘pedal’ the horses forward.
Role of Evolution
The evolution of horse toes is astonishing and explains why our hoofy friends only have one finger per leg instead of five like in human beings.
First of all, since horses have to move on their fingers and have no other function except for stabilizing, walking, and trotting, a single but powerful and large of it is enough. On the other hand, humans have to do various tasks using their fingers, such as eating, writing, and so on.
Secondly, horses had five fingers in the past, just like human beings, but they gradually reduced to only one as these animals evolved over millions of years. Based on that, it can be said that horses have shed their toes over time. Or perhaps their toes have merged into one big hoof.
In prehistoric times, horses had four toes and fed mostly on fruits. However, as the environment cooled down, they started living in prairie habitats where they ate grass and had to run fast. Afterward, they also developed into pack animals. All these conditions and their quest to survive demanded them to run faster.
Eventually, to fulfill this requirement, the toes started evolving until only one of them was left. In addition to enhancing their speed, the single-toe mechanism also works as a shock absorber, giving them a smooth gait. Today, horses can run faster than ever. The fastest horses breed – American Paint Horse – can attain an impressive speed of 55 to 60 mph.
A new study, however, points out that horses have all five toes even today but only when they are in the womb. After the fourth week, the middle toe starts growing larger, and the outer pairs of toes start merging. This goes on until the time the embryo gets two months old, and only one toe is left.
Since horses have fingers, there must have fingernails too. You might be surprised, but the hooves are actually horse fingernails, and just like the nails and claws of any other creature, they grow and need to be trimmed after regular intervals. Besides, they are made up of the same material and do not feel pain when cut because their outer portion is void of nerves. However, they do not grow as fast as in the case of human beings. Additionally, they might hurt if the horseshoes over them do not fit properly.
Did You Know?A key to good hoof health is its proper cutting, and it can be done so with the help of a hoof knife. It trims away the loose and dried sole, leaving behind clean frogs.
In the review of the study mentioned above, it was found that horses are not alone in having legs as fingers. All animals that the researcher included in their study, from pigs to emus, began their embryo life with all five toes. However, they ended up having fewer, either four or three, toes by the time they were born. It was also found that the fusion of toes was the main reason for the reduction of this number.
It was previously thought that genetics played a key role in determining the number of toes. Nonetheless, this study showed that almost all animals initially had more toes, which decreased later.
Conclusion: Are Horse Legs Fingers?
After going through all the explanations supported by facts, it is certain that, yes, horse legs are fingers. However, horse legs turn into fingers beneath the knees, and unlike human beings, they only have one finger per leg. Besides, horse fingers also have similar features as in other creatures, such as the composition and growth of fingernails.
Thanks to science and research, we know that horse legs are fingers. As further studies are yet to be conducted, horses may have thumbs too!