The lengths of the digital bones of the fore- and hind-limbs obtained post mortem from 40 cattle of different
ages were measured using digital radiographs. The lengths of the individual digital bones and the
overall length of the digit were determined using computer software.
The lateral metacarpal/metatarsal condyle, and lateral P1 and P2 were significantly longer than their
medial counterparts, whereas P3 of the medial digit was longer than its lateral partner. Measured from
the cannon bone epiphysis to the tip of the pedal bone, the mean increased length of the lateral digit was
0.8 mm in the fore- and 1.5 mm in the hind-limb. When the lengths of the digital bones were summed,
the mean length of the lateral digit was 1.8 mm longer in the fore-limb and 2.1 mm longer in the hindlimb.
Based on these findings, it can be concluded that the lengths of the paired digits differ in cattle. The
majority of cattle have longer lateral digits in the fore- and hind-limbs. This asymmetry might explain
why the lateral hind-limb claws are predisposed to sole ulcers on hard surfaces. In the hind-limbs, the
impact is transferred from the pelvis directly to the longer lateral digit. In the fore-limb claws, the tenomuscular
attachment to the trunk may be involved in a more even weight distribution and in a shift of
weight to the medial claw.