Inside of a Horse Hoof. What Horse Hooves are Made of

Jessica McDaniel
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Horse Hooves Anatomy

Your horse hooves are made of horn (keratin) and they are made to absorb shock. All horses will lose hooves and will regenerate them. Hooves are made up of a sensitive material and feel and are VERY easy to injure. If you do injure a horse hoof, you should thoroughly clean the wound before applying wet granulated sugar. Sugar can kill bacteria and the wound will heal over night.

Your horse hooves are made up of two parts. A hoof wall and a sole. The hoof wall is made of keratin (like animal hair). The sole (bottom) is made up of fused hairless skin cells, with a few layers of outer hoof tissue that are stuck to the sole underneath.

If you horse has a white line inside its hoof, it's the junction between sole and wall. The black line is the coronary band. The hoof wall is the outside layer and the protective part. The sole is like the bed for that hoof wall.

The sole is sensitive and the best way to protect it is with good hoof boots. If your horse steps on a nail or any other kind of sharp object you need to apply pressure with a wound dressing.

Horse Hooves: Inner structures

Horse hooves are made up of lots and lots of small hollow tubes filled with water and living cells, making them a living, breathing growth. The tubes, called tubules, are hollow tubes filled with the blood and vessels that nourish the hoof. The hooves are constantly fed oxygen and nutrients through the blood vessels, and the blood vessels are also fed oxygen and nutrients through the hoof capsule.

The outer hoof, known as the stratum corneum or the skin, give protection to this internal structure. The inner parts are cushioned from the outside by a soft tissue layer called the sole.

The sole is lined with tough and incredibly thick skin called the corium. The corium is where the definition of hoof, being half bone and half horn, comes from. The outer part is similar to bone, while the inner part has the same composition as horn. This is a result of the horse hooves thickening at the inside to protect the sensitive tender sole area from irritation and impact. The keratin responsible for this transformation from a living to a dead substance is called cement.

Outer Structures

A horse hoof is made up of two distinct parts, which are the hoof wall and the hoof floor. The bulk of the hoof wall is made up of dead tissue, with only the distal rim being alive. As the hoof wall grows, the undifferentiated tissue starts to solidify and harden. The hoof wall is a very sturdy structure, allowing the hoof to withstand the high impact force of each step the horse takes.

The hoof wall appears reddish in color due to a large concentration of red blood cells in the hoof wall. The hoof wall is attached to the bottom of the hoof wall by the laminar pad. The bottom of the hoof wall also consists of two distinct layered structures, an inner and outer layer. The bottom of the hoof wall is known as the white line, and it separates the bottom of the hoof wall from the hoof floor.

Each structure of the hoof wall is further broken down into specific layers in order for the hoof wall to function properly.

The most important layer of the hoof wall is the stratum tectorium, which is the layer of living quiescent cells, dermal cells which communicate and send out chemical signals to other cells in the hoof wall. The stratum corneum is the top most layer of the hoof wall.

Hoof Wall

The hoof wall is actually the outer hoof that protects your horse. It’s made of Keratin,The same material your hair and nails are made out of.

It’s 4 inces thick, protecting the horse from external forces. It’s outer layer is made of dead cells that will only break down if it’s under excessive stress.

Right beneath the horn is the soft sensitive laminae tissue. This tissue provides your horse with the ability to feel ground and pushes off the ground.

White Line

The inner hoof wall, closely associated with the white line, is made of blood vessels and nerve endings. It’s the thickest area of the hoof wall, and the line is created from the accumulation of the many blood vessels present in this area. Within the hoof hair, you can see the brighter red blood pumping and hear a swishing sound created by the moving blood. This thick region needs nutrients from the keratin and other organic matter provided by the rest of the hoof, but if the hooves wear down, too thin, and the blood vessels are cut off, the horse may experience founder. It’s important to check the hooves regularly to make sure the hoof wall is not growing too fast or too slow.


A bony matter known as podiatry is present all over the bottom of a horse’s hoof.

It’s usually hidden by the hoof wall but you can find trace of this matter when the hoof wall is removed.

The sole can be present on either side of the hoof and is act as a shock absorber for the navicular bone, the bone at the back of the hoof. It’s a thick dense sole that has a harder consistency than the hoof wall. This is the reason why the sole is prone to getting worn out faster than the hoof wall.

When the sole wears down or deteriorates, it’s usually very painful for the horse, as they can feel the navicular bone hitting the ground.

If it gets worse, the horse may start limping and sometimes even refuse to walk.

To avoid your horse suffering from the navicular disease, you have to keep an eye on the sole and make sure it’s in good condition.


S, Turtles, Horses, and Mammals.

It’s been a few years since I was at the zoo and observed how the horse walk in their stalls and saw how their hooves move. I like to look at the animal hooves and notice how they are made, how they are different from mine. Seems kind of silly, I know, but I think it is a nice thing to do.

The frog is the closest to the horse. The frog and the horse hooves are made of hard keratin. The frog builds its own hoof whereas the horse hoof is genetically predetermined and grows from a permanent skin sheath that fuses to the bone.

The hoof has two extensions at the top. The upper hoof, or the extensor, is the soft part; the hard, black part is the hoof. This extension is the part that bends when the horse lands.

The frog is at the bottom of the hoof.

Horse Hooves Functions

Horse hooves are among the most complex and specialized type of animal limb and they’re designed to manage the weight, speed and endurance of a large animal, as well as provide traction and grip on many different terrains. A horse with healthy and strong hooves is a happy horse.

Hooves have a health section, called the horn, which grows from the bottom and a sensitive area just under the skin called the 'frog' which is the weight-bearing area of a hoof.

Horse's hooves are made up of:

  • Hair: About 75% of hoof hair is terminal hair, which helps keep hooves shiny and clean and plays a role in footing, and 25% is the hair that helps prevent soil and germs from entering horse’s foot.
  • Corium: The corium is a special tissue in the middle of a horse’s hoof which helps a horse absorb shock, distribute weight and allows the hoof to be pliable.
  • Nail: The nail is the hard part of a hoof which attaches hoof wall to the digit (toes).
  • Horn: Horn grows from the lower section of a hoof and it is the sole of a hoof and protects the soft structures inside the hoof.


Horse Hooves are composed of weight-bearing and rigid tissue, which is made of keratin, a protein produced by certain cells. Keratin is also found in human finger nails and is the same material that makeup brushes are made of.

Also included in horse hoof material is cartilage, the same material that our ears are made of. It adds flexibility to the weight-bearing and rigid tissue.

The structure of the horse hoof consists of lamellae, or keratin plates. These plates are approximately 20 microns and are situated in the corium, a layer of connective tissue that surrounds the keratin.

Between the layers of the corium are sweat glands and vital blood vessels that give color to the horse hoof.

The primary function of the horse hoof is to support the animal's weight in a manner that allows it to be a successful herbivore or carnivore, depending on the type of horse, because the horse can support its own weight on its hooves while grazing in a field or feeding at the trough and yet have a very high level of speed.

Contrary to popular myth, the horse hoof is not made of bone. The bones of the horse's leg originate in the knee and extend into the foot.

Shock Absorption

Horse hooves are often used as a comparison of shock absorption. A hoof's interior structure is made of numerous joints and layers of elastic keratin cells, which play an important role in protecting the horse’s inner system from any unexpected once. This, with the help of a thick corium (the outer layer of the hoof), provides the necessary protection from environmental impacts.

The top of the hoof is also made of keratin cells that are flexible enough, allowing the hoof to adequately spread out the weight and impact of the horse's body when it stands or walks.

If you look at a horse's hoof up close, it has a frog at the bottom that has a root and horn, and this is where blood vessels are located. The horn is the hard keratin part close to the bottom, and the bottom part of it has spongy tissue. The spongy tissue is similar to a rock-wool sponge that absorbs shock and helps ward off infections.

And the corium is the outer layer of the hoof that helps prevent the over-absorption of moisture or anything from the environment. All these layers together, work as a cushion, distributing and taking the pressure of any weight, impact, and concussion a horse's hoof could encounter.


Horse hooves (also called horseshoes) provide protection for the horse's leg and foot from striking a solid object. This is a big advantage for a horse, as if he does strike something with his hoof it is the equivalent of a person walking around and hitting things with their feet.

Horses can step on rocks, nails, get stuck in mud and more without hurting themselves. If a horse steps on a nail, without a hoof the nail may go through the foot.

Horse Hooves Facts

Horse hooves are natural shock absorption units. However, they can perform even better if correctly maintained. The soft tissues in the foot slightly compress to absorb the shock of impact. The interdigital (between the toe clefts) and lateral cartilages in the hoof capsule restrict expansion of the hoof on impact. The transition of the hoof wall to the sole reduces the propagated shock wave through the hoof. The hoof wall is very elastic and can return to its original shape after compression.

The inner hoof is made up of layers. These layers are the stratum medium, stratum internum, stratum germinativum, stratum externum, hoof wall, and the horn. The hoof wall is harder than the horn. The horn is very soft and yellowish in color while the hoof wall is hooved, purplish and thickened at the apex of the cleft.

The last layer, the horn, is the hardest layer of the inner hoof. It is made up of compacted keratin. The horn is the last layer to be laid down in the hoof capsule when a foal is developing. It is made up of two main layers: stratum compactum and stratum laminare. The stratum compactum is the foundation to which the stratum laminare attaches.