The Hooves of the Mountain Goat

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Adapted to their perilous environment, Alpine ibex have evolved a specialized split hoof, whose cleft is wider than on any other split-hooved species, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The hoof also has a hard wall that can grab on to steep cliffs and a soft, rubbery inside that serves as a "stopper" when the animal is pushed forward by gravity, the magazine reported.

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Unlike horses, goats have hooves comprised of two split toes. The outer part of each toe, which is shaped like a parabola when seen from below and is labeled "Wall" in the diagram below, is hard; the part marked "Sole" on the diagram is soft and rubbery.

The parabolic shape of the hoof wall adds strength, while the cushy sole provides traction on sloped surfaces and can deform inwards to absorb irregularities in the terrain. And because the toes can operate independently, the goat can use just one to gain purchase on extremely narrow surfaces, or splay the toes to gain more contact area.