A hoof (// or //), plural hooves (// or //) or hoofs //, is the tip of a toe of an ungulate mammal, strengthened by a thick, horny, keratin covering. The hoof consists of a hard or rubbery sole and a hard wall formed by a thick nail rolled around the tip of the toe. The weight of the animal is normally borne by both the sole and the edge of the hoof wall. Hooves grow continuously, and are constantly worn down by use.
Most even-toed ungulates (such as sheep, goats, deer, cattle, bison and pigs) have two main hooves on each foot, together called a cloven hoof. Most of these cloven-hoofed animals also have two smaller hoofs called dew-claws a little further up the leg – these are not normally used for walking, but in some species with larger dew-claws (such as deer and pigs) they may touch the ground when running or jumping, or if the ground is soft. Other cloven-hoofed animals (such as giraffes and pronghorns) have no dew claws. In some so-called "cloven-hoofed" animals such as camels, there are no hooves proper – the toe is softer, and the hoof itself is reduced to little more than a nail.
Some odd-toed ungulates (equids) have one hoof on each foot; others (including rhinoceroses, tapirs and many extinct species) have (or had) three distinct hoofed or heavily nailed toes, or one hoof and two dew-claws. The tapir is a special case, having three toes on each hind foot and four toes on each front foot.
Rear foot of a giraffe (no dew claws)
Rear hooves of a horse
Malayan tapir hooves: front with four toes, back with three toes
See also 
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- M. E. Robertson-Mackay (1980). A head and hooves burial beneath a round barrow, with other Neolithic and Bronze Age sites on Hemp Knoll, near Avebury, Wiltshire. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society.