Let's assume that somehow a hoofed creature became a carnivore. Since hoofs are inferior in every way for hunting animals, it make sense that the species would need to evolve to hunt better. Thus, if a hoofed creature evolved to be carnivorous, how would the hoof adapt to this?

  • $\begingroup$ To capture a prey one must get a grip! or a bite... $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Sep 20, 2015 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ So basically, this is a design challenge to make a hooved predator? $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Sep 20, 2015 at 13:45
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ As KillingTime has already stated, hooved animals that were probable predators existed at some point in Earth's history. There also is a bit of an issue with the question. Hooves are probably inferior for killing prey. However, hooves are excellent for moving at high speeds in flat terrain, which is of course where many hooved animals are found. That a hooved predator that kills prey with a bite is possible is demonstrated by KillingTime. We cannot conclude that such a predator might not have very similar pressures to evolve hooves as would, for example, horses. $\endgroup$
    – Obie 2.0
    Sep 20, 2015 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Tiny TrEs-2: You've obviously never been kicked by a horse! $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jan 8, 2017 at 19:23
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Do you mean an obligate carnivore, or just an omnivore? Because plenty of hoofed animals will eat meat if they can, including deer and pigs. $\endgroup$
    – Jason K
    Jan 9, 2017 at 16:51

5 Answers 5


Well, looking up "hoof" on Wikipedia, I found that it is

the tip of a toe of an ungulate mammal

And apparently an extinct ungulate, Mesonychid, was carnivorous and also had

four digits that ended in tiny hooves on all of their toes and were increasingly well adapted to running.

Regarding their diet:

Many species are suspected of being fish-eaters, and the largest species are considered to have been scavengers.

They are also considered to be related to cetaceans, some of which are carnivores.

So it seems like hoofed creatures can adapt fairly well to eating fish. However, the shape of the teeth is more important.

I've also heard that other ungulate species, like pigs, can be fairly omnivorous even if not truly carnivorous.

  • $\begingroup$ Actually, the whales did not evolve from mesonychians. $\endgroup$ Jun 19, 2017 at 12:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @JohnWDailey: What is the reason for the "actually"? I don't think I said anywhere that whales evolved from mesonychians. $\endgroup$
    – zeta
    Jun 19, 2017 at 12:17

Right, firstly, animals have already done that, twice. First were the mesonychids, then the entelodonts.

The reason for this happening wasn't because hooves were better or worse, it is simply because the first big animals were hoofed herbivores/insectivores. The carnivores that rose from them simply kept the hooves that their relatives had.

Another thing to note is that, yes, hooves aren't great for holding onto something, your jaws are. Animals like the Mongolonyx had a massive head and huge jaw muscles, because their predecessors had them already. They would also have likely hunted in packs (herds?) as fossils from Mongolia are often found together. They also were not by any means primitive, as was found with creodonts (sarkastodon etc.), they had relatively carnivorian sized brains.

The mesonychids were actually very successful and survived all the way up to the early to mid oligocene, while creodonts went almost entirely extinct (though the Mongolian Hyeanodontids survived till the early Pliocene).

Mongolestes, the last known mesonychid, would have been a top predator, and it's genuinely not known why they went extinct, as they dominated their niches.

I have noticed that many people say stuff like the claw is the perfect weapon. Yes, it is good for gripping, but plenty of animals don't need it and many also don't use them to the extent that you would think (dogs, wolves, etc).


Nature has already had a go. They were called Entelodonts or Archaeotherium and were large pig-like creatures which became extinct about 16 million years ago. While not quite out and out carnivores, they were certainly capable of being the apex predators in their environment.

  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget the primitive artiodactyls like Andrewsarchus. $\endgroup$ Sep 20, 2015 at 3:49
  • $\begingroup$ @YoustayIgo Andrew was an entelodont. $\endgroup$ Jan 8, 2017 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ I could be wrong but I'm petty sure they were a variation of hipoptmous $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    Mar 14, 2018 at 0:54

Regarding "hooves are inferior in every way", no they are not. Yes, claws are useful, its why Carnivores (as in members of Carnivora) have them. But if you've ever actually looked at a hoof, they are very useful weapons in there own right. Claws may slash, but hooves bludgeon, and as a result can kill much quicklier and cleanlier, especially if the hoof is uncloven. People have died from horse kicks.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi, just to clarify, you've saying that the hooves on a carnivore wouldn't adapt at all? Or would they just get stronger or heavier or something? $\endgroup$ Sep 7, 2017 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ Hooves are useful for defense, when the attacker is behind you and his head is at reach. But if you are attacking using hooves, the target's head will likely be far away. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Sep 7, 2017 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithrandir24601 They would get stronger and maybe sharper, but that latter defeats the "bludgeoning" argument. $\endgroup$
    – No Name
    Sep 7, 2017 at 20:04

I fail to see why a hoof is inferior for hunting. What it really comes down to is the hunting style and the preferred prey plus the terrain.

I can see a hoofed predator hunting it's prey by speed and stamina. It just runs the prey down until it collapses with exhaustion. Any sick or weak herd members will collapse first and the pack will close in on them.

Think open grassland with little cover.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .