Ungulates are mammals which have hooves or structures like hooves on their toes. They include most of our farm animals: horses, cattles, sheep, goats, pigs and others, as well as many very important wild animals. Hooves are simply an enlarged toe nail. Ungulate animals are grouped together by zoologists into a category named “Ungulata”.

  • The “Unguis” is a plate that makes up the top layer of the hoof, exposed to the air. In humans, the unguis is the hard part of a finger or toe nail.
  • The “Sub Unguis” is a soft layer between the unguis and the tissue of the digit.

Most ungulates are herbivores, with the exception of pigs and peccaries who are omnivores and eat small rodents, insects and bugs.  Most are foraging animals; even when not in need of food. Eg. Captive animals that are fed will still spend a lot of time moving about in their enclosure as if they are foraging.  Some ungulates exhibit grazing behaviours, feeding on grasses, and they will graze for long periods of time.  Other ungulates are browsers and these feed on shrubs, trees, vines and fruit.  

One group of undgulates are the artiodactyls, or even toes ungulates. 
They include:
Tayassuidae eg. Peccary
Antilocapridae eg. Antelope
Camelidae eg. Dromedary Camel
Hippopotamidae eg. Hippopotamus
Moschidae eg. Musk Deer
Suidae eg Domestic Pig 
Tragulidae eg. Mouse Deer
Giraffidae eg. Okapi
Cervidae. eg. Moose 
Bovidae eg. Cattle and Mountain Goat 


They are considered to be the most successful large herbivores worldwide.  Artiodactyls occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica and Australia and the order contains most domesticated agricultural mammals.  

Artiodactyls have been significant to man for a very long time. Evidence found in East Africa shows man using antalopes 2 million years ago; and evidence in Europe shows man 30,000 years ago using reindeer for food, using their bones for tools and their skins for clothing. Domesticated goats and sheep can be traced to 10,000 years ago.

Artodactyls provide meat, milk, wool and leather; are farmed and hunted extensively; used as pack animals (camels, donkeys) and ridden (horses). 

Man has played a significant role in using some artiodactyl species for resources and has led to many welfare concerns across the globe.  Nowadays, there are a number of intensively farmed species used for their milk and meat production and has become more of larger process. 

For more about ungulates, see our ebook on ungulates.