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Here is Carolina Lang's interpretation of one of Britain's heraldic beasts, the enfield:

enter image description here

For anyone not familiar with the creature, here's A Book of Creatures' basic description of it:

It has the head of a fox, the chest of a greyhound, the talons of an eagle, the body of a lion, and the hindlegs and tail of a wolf.

So in the long and short of it, a very interesting species of canid--wait, hold up. EAGLE talons? Clearly, some foreign author doesn't know how else to describe this newly discovered creature's footwork.

So disregarding the "mad scientist stitching bird feet onto a dog's body" handwavium, how and why would the enfield, if it were a real wild animal, have long, sharp claws, something that other canids don't have?

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    $\begingroup$ Grey fox have very sharp claws , they are also the only canid that routinely climbs. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 1:52
  • $\begingroup$ The Enfield is sometimes depicted with wings, sometimes without. Either way, I see it as an ambush predator, not a pursuit one. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Commented Dec 25, 2020 at 13:06

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The racoon has paws which are way more articulated than those of a canid

racoon paws showing the fingers

This is a consequence of the well developed manipulative skills of the animal itself.

If whoever observed the enfield in the wild was not exactly in their senses, maybe because they had too much grog to keep them warm in the mists of the moorland, they can easily confuse such a paw with an eagle one.

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  • $\begingroup$ What would a canid with procyonid paws specialize on? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 14:20
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The Enfield is a felid.

The problem with eagle claws on a canid is that eagle claws are sharp, for catching fish, and canids run on their claws, blunting them to stubs. Felids have worked around this by making their claws retractile. Cats (except cheetahs) run on their pads to save claw sharpness, leaving claws ready for use as weapons. One could make a case that this evolutionary coup makes felids superior predators as compared to others in their order. The sharp hooked claws of the fishing cat compare to those of the eagle. Cut the cat some slack, now - it has to be able to retract those claws back into the paw.

fishing cat claws

https://wildcatconservation.org/international-conservationists-develop-conservation-strategy-plan-fishing-cat/fishing-cat-claws/

The Enfield takes this one step further; one might assume that like eagles and fishing cats, the Enfield eats a lot of fish. Its paws are bigger and its claws are longer, sharper and more curved.

As regards the wolf tail, I assert that a little bit of evolution could easily give a felid a wolf tail. Felids have a wider range of tail shapes than canids including stubs, long tentacles, fabulous fluffy boas (the snow leopard) and this charming kitty who is no doubt proud of her vulpine tail.

cat with fluffy tail

https://pixy.org/272564/

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  • $\begingroup$ Dailey, I admit it upsets me for a second when you downvote for no good reason. But then I realize how much fun I have answering your questions and I feel good again. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ The enfield is a CANID! $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnWDailey - evidence suggests otherwise. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ /canids run on their claws, blunting them to stubs. Felids have worked around this by making their claws retractile/ $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk, you have to treat John's questions a little differently to normal. The exact details as presented are very important, though the concept can be challenged within those constraints. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 16:50
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It climbs trees

If it hunts birds or other tree dwelling prey, long claws are a must to get up and down trees. Not so much bird feet but cat like claws

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The trouble with the talons of an eagle is they're not designed for running with the speed of a greyhound. They also clash with the canid hunting style which goes in face first rather than the eagle style of talons first. The body of a lion is that of an ambush predator, the hind legs of a wolf are those of an endurance runner.

Ability to grasp, bite, and we'll call the combined back end a long attack spring.

The best path is possibly over specialisation on a particular form of small to medium highly evasive prey. This prey requires both grasping claws and teeth to be able to catch and kill it. Perhaps this is a creature that hunts in shallow water for octopuses or similar slightly dangerous prey.

Maybe a mangrove specialist, where the ability to hang onto branches while waiting for the spring to attack finds the balance between the claws and teeth, though there'd be an argument for either rear talons or front and rear talons in that option.

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  • $\begingroup$ Running is no bar to evolving long, sharp claws. Consider the ratites like the ostrich, emu, and in particular the cassowary: guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2019/4/… $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf ostrich claws are a long way from eagle claws $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 6:42
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It runs very fast. The Ostrich has long claws, adapted for running, so I guess the Enfield's claws are long because it chases very fast-running prey.

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