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Ungulate (pronounced: /ˈʌŋɡjʊlɪt/), from the Latin ungula, meaning "hoof", is a diverse group of large mammals that are characterized by their hooves.


The term "ungulate" comes from the Latin ungula, meaning "hoof". It is derived from unguis, which means "nail".


Ungulates are any members of a diverse group of primarily large mammals that are characterized by their hooves. These include odd-toed ungulates such as horses and rhinoceroses, and even-toed ungulates such as cattle, pigs, giraffes, camels, deer, and hippopotami.


Ungulates are typically herbivorous, and many employ specialized gut bacteria to allow them to digest cellulose, as in the ruminants. They have developed a range of adaptations, including the modification of the first and fifth metacarpal and metatarsal bones into the hoof, which provides extra strength and resilience to the foot when holding up weight and running.


Ungulates are typically classified into two orders: Perissodactyla (odd-toed ungulates) and Artiodactyla (even-toed ungulates).


Perissodactyls, also known as odd-toed ungulates, bear most of their weight on one digit, the third toe, which is typically larger and positioned in the center. This group includes horses, tapirs, and rhinoceroses.


Artiodactyls, also known as even-toed ungulates, bear their weight equally on two of their five toes: the third and fourth. This group includes pigs, peccaries, hippopotamuses, camels, llamas, alpacas, mouse deer, deer, giraffes, antelope, sheep, goats, and cattle.

Related Terms

  • Hoof: The hard covering on the foot of an ungulate.
  • Ruminant: A type of ungulate that digests plant-based food by initially softening it within the animal's first compartment of the stomach, known as the rumen.
  • Herbivore: An animal anatomically and physiologically adapted to eating plant material.

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