Deer Anatomy – Legs/Feet


Deer are ungulates, or hoofed mammals. Their legs are well suited for running, whether chasing during the rut or evading danger. Deer also possess a great leaping ability. They bound swiftly across a dense forest or prairie, often jumping 8 feet into the air. The strong muscles of a deer’s hind legs provide most of the power for running and jumping. The front legs are ideal for pivoting, allowing a deer to make sharp turns. The top speed of the whitetail is about 35 miles per hour. Whitetails are also good swimmers.

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A deer’s feet are actually two elongated toes. Their hooves are like big, thick toenails. A deer’s hoof has three parts: the compact horn, the sole horn and the cuneus. The compact horn is the hardest and widest part-most of the shock from running dissipates here.

A deer’s hooves are comparable to the third and fourth fingers on your hand. The second and fifth “fingers” are located behind the hooves and called dewclaws. Bucks tend to have longer and wider hooves than does, and hence leave larger tracks. Hooves grow fastest in the summer and slowest in the winter, probably due to a deer’s slower metabolism late in the year.


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