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Friday, December 18, 2009

Introduction to Hoof Anatomy: Dermal and Epidermal Structures

18 December 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog at

Time for an anatomy review? The exterior of the horse's hoof is pretty familiar territory to anyone reading this blog, but sometimes the anatomical reference terms used in this article are all new to someone from outside the hands-on world of horses, or maybe some blog readers get confused about the terms in the English language, since, according to the statistics I've been checking, this blog is read by people from just about every country on the planet!

This simple video reviews the structures of the hoof capsule with an emphasis on dermal vs epidermal (inner vs outer, in plain language; sometimes referred to as sensitive vs insensitive in older terminology that described the laminae and sole).

If an anatomist was comparing the hooves of several mammals, he or she would use the terminology you will hear in this video. Everything has a noun to identify and an adjective to modify or locate it. The most common ones you'll hear are directional--medial or lateral, dorsal or palmar, but listen for things described as epidermis and corium, and for the characteristics of the layers of tissue in the coronary band. It's nice that the narrator speaks so slowly.

I apologize if this is too basic for you, but maybe you'll watch it anyway, and pass it on to someone who would like to study anatomy.

Lately it seems like some people don't study anatomy as much as they interpret it, according to their theories of the function of the hoof, but that seems backwards to me. I think my own theory on this is based on years of marveling at the hoof and hearing the most learned scholars marvel too at the complexity of the hoof's design and yet the efficiency of its functions.

I don't think we've cracked the case yet, but when we do, I believe it really will be like finishing a jigsaw puzzle: you just can't have any leftover unexplained anatomy pieces lying off to the side when you're done with your explanation of the foot. Everything that is there, is there for a reason and is doing something. All the parts work together. All the parts are important. That's the beauty of it...and the mystery of it, as well.

Thanks to mido851114 , an Egyptian vet who obviously found this video helpful, and posted it on YouTube so I could embed it here for you. The video was originally made for a set of comparative species dissection narrations at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1995 with credits to Drs. Nongnuch Inpanbutr and Maureen Caito. Dr. Inpanbutr is from Thailand. And so the world gets smaller and smaller...

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent information and visualization of a very complex and critically important part of our horses.
Very informative.
Thank you Ms Jurga.
Glad I found your site via Mike Windsor.
With wishes for a safe and joyful holiday season to you and yours.