This is why footcare is so important for zoo elephants!

Elephant feet 101

 Feet help living creatures get from one place to another. That is no different for the mighty elephant. Their feet might look different, but it helps carry their weight and even communicate with other elephants.

That is why foot care is such an essential aspect of elephant conservation in zoos. Here is some background information about an elephant’s feet and elephant foot care. 

Elephant feet basics

Elephants are four-legged animals with some quite interesting feet. They are digitigrades - this is an animal that stands or walks on its toes. They do not walk like humans with their heels touching the ground. Some other animals that are also classified as digitigrades are cats, dogs and walking birds. 

The foot of the elephant is pretty flat. It consists of toes and a large fat pad that is similar to a human's heel. This pad helps spread out and reduce the pressure on its foot when it walks. It also acts as a "shock absorber," which allows elephants to move quietly.  

The sole of an elephant's foot is ridged and pitted. You can tell the age of an elephant by looking at its footprint. The more rigid the impression is, the older an elephant is, and the smoother the print, the younger the elephant is. 

Can elephants hear with their feet? 

Elephants use seismic communication to communicate with each other. These large animals send low frequencies rumbles that are picked up by their feet through their digital cushion. Elephants have lots of nerves in their feet that help them pick up those low frequencies. 

Whether elephants really hear with their feet or feel with their feet is not clearly sure. Researchers have discovered that ground vibrations can travel through an elephant's skeleton and into its ears. 

How big is an elephant's foot? 

Elephants are large animals, so of course, they have large feet. The average size of an elephant’s foot is 15 to 19 inches in length and width. The circumference of an elephant’s foot is more than four feet. 

How many toes do elephants have?

The average elephant has five toes on each foot but not the same number of toenails. Elephants have five toenails on the front feet and four toenails on the back

Their toenails and soles are always growing. In the wild, elephants are always walking long distances that also help trim their growing nails and soles

Elephant footcare

Regular foot care is an important aspect of an elephant's health. Dr. Morfeld, For Elephants Founder, got a chance to discuss elephant foot care with Rebecca Wyatt, Elephant Care Professional, on the For Elephants Show.

She states that elephants are enormous animals that carry their weight on their feet. If their feet are not in good condition, their overall well-being can decline. That is why zoos ensure that elephants' feet are regularly cared for. 

In zoos, elephants do not walk long distances that help trim their toenails and soles. So, elephant conservation in zoo experts wash, scrub and trim the bottoms of their feet and toenails. That way, there is no pressure put onto their nails. 

If there is too much pressure on their nails, it can cause their nails to crack and allow dirt to seep inside. This can cause abscesses and infections. To learn more about elephant foot care, listen to the full podcast episode here

Help elephant conservation in zoos!

At For Elephants, we are conducting research to improve the infertility rates of elephants in zoos. You can contribute to our research by joining the “Herd of Heroes” where you can make a monthly donation of your choice. Do not forget to sign up for our newsletter! 


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