Definition of Footcare

From the elephant glossary Section: management

Dan Koehl giving footcare to elephants at Circus Krone in Germany, 1998. Photo © Jan Lindblad Jr.
Dan Koehl giving footcare to elephants at Circus Krone in Germany, 1998. Photo © Jan Lindblad Jr.

Relevant Literature about Footcare
There are different opinions wether footcare should be performed on elephants or not. And its true that sometimes footcare may be overdone, which can cause problems. Such cases used to be rather few in the past, but ar lately increasing when more people with less competence wants to do footcare. Especially the use of knives can later become a problem when used by someone with less experience.

There is however, much more common, especially in Asia, that people who doesnt really know how to trim Feet and nails, also argue strongly for that elephants dont need it. And in those cases the elephants are often so badly trained for footcare, that its difficult to inspect the Feet for a visiting elephant keeper, Curator or Vet. If the elephants are not trained to put their Feet on a tube, this is the first indication of neglected footcare. A well trained elephants also bend their front Feet backwards on command, making the trimming of the front Feet soles easier.

Asian elephants in captivity generally need more footcare than African elephants. Neglect of footcare and lacking knowledge of how to do it, should be considered as sign of bad elephant management. When problems arise with the Feet, its most often a result of long time of neglect, and can sometimes not be corrected over some days or a week. Therefore, a regulairly inspection and trimming is the proper method, but its not vise to say how often, because it has to be done when needed, and this may vary with season, individual differences, and stable and enclosure conditions, and with food changes and types of work, such as children riding operations.

Some cracks in the soles of elephants are normal and natural, but if they develop tp pockets where dirt gest stucked, it will often lead to problems. And cracks with pockets filled with dirt in the soles in cold climate is very bad, since theres a potential risk in the northern hemisphere that this will reduce the foots insulation, and may later result in joint problems and Arthritis. Pockets and cracks in the sole may also lead to infections.

Also nails need sometimes to be shortened, especially the middle nail on the hind Feet, which takes most pressure from the elephants body weight. If such elephants are kept on concrete floor, it may increase vertical cracks in the nails.

It is highly recommended to use expert tools made for horse hoof-smiths for this, but also other tools can be used. Less experienced people can do a lot of damage using knives and sharp object, and should first learn to use a file/rasp for a longer period, before start to use knives. When using knives its also better not to use too much force, keep the knives sharp, and when less experienced, do smaller movemements, and wait some days for the next.

An example of using a local knife and rasp in combination, where expert tools were not available, can be seen on the video below, where only small careful movements are used, and instead of using the force of an arm, careful hits on the knife is used, to get a more precise result. Its better to work slow and careful, than with big force and fast. Remember that an elephants foot is fragile, and not a piece of wood. If the tissue of the foot gets damaged, it may result in severe health problems like life-threatening condition'>Sepsis, and even the elephants death.

Shorten of hind foot middle nail on Asian elephant bull Khamsen, at Airavata Elephant Foundation in Cambodia. Filmed © by Pierre-Yves Clais, Airavata Foundation.

Internal relevant links on website

Footcare mentioned in The Elephant Database
  • No country match the word Footcare in the database.

2 locations holdings in the elephant database match the word Footcare.

2 elephants in the elephant database match the word Footcare

Reference list Koehl, Dan, (2024). Footcare. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 20 September 2021 at (archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources used for this article is among others:

  • Dan Koehl

Selected publications

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Categories glossary | management

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