As a result of the lack of basic microscopic anatomy of the elephants' foot, this study deals with the normal microscopic morphology of both the Asian (Elephas maximus) and African (Loxodonta africana) elephant foot with consideration of pathologic changes. A total of 727 histologic samples from defined locations of 24 hooves of both species (17 Asian and seven African species) were studied, measured, and evaluated. Minor differences between the feet and species are seen histologically. Poor horn quality in captive elephants' hooves and loci of minor resistance in captive and wild animals are detected. The thickness of the weight-bearing surface of the captive elephants' hooves is histologically measured as “very thin” (about 10 mm). The normal histologic findings provide a basis for assessing histopathologic changes and especially horn quality. The histologic findings might explain some of the foot problems, but they also give rise to questions about the quality and correctness of current husbandry techniques.
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Vol. 40 • No. 4