The hoofed mammals, or “ungulates,” belong to two taxonomic orders: Cetartiodactyla, which includes the artiodactyls, or even-toed ungulates; and Perissodactyla, the odd-toed ungulates. Recent convention places the cetaceans -- whales and dolphins -- within Cetartiodactyla, but these seagoing mammals lack hooves and thus aren’t considered ungulates. The artiodactyls include 10 extant families, the perissodactyls three.
Artiodactyls: Family Antilocapridae
A single species composes this family: the pronghorn, endemic to the grasslands and semi-deserts of western North America. This is arguably the overall champion speedster of the mammal world: While the cheetah somewhat exceeds the pronghorn’s maximum speed of 95 kilometers per hour (59 miles per hour), the ungulate has far greater endurance -- it can run at 65 kph (40 mph) for 10 kilometers (6 miles).
Artiodactyls: Family Bovidae
Bovids include antelope, goats and cattle, and account for more than half of all living ungulate species. Most inhabit Africa and Eurasia, but a few bovids -- the American bison, muskox, bighorn sheep, Dall sheep and Rocky Mountain goat -- are North American natives.
Artiodactyls: Family Camelidae
The camelids evolved in North America in the Eocene and spread from there to Eurasia and South America, ultimately disappearing in their ancestral homeland. The surviving members are the one-humped dromedary and two-humped Bactrian camels of the Old World and the vicuna, guanaco, llama and alpaca of South America. Dromedaries, llamas and alpacas are domesticated animals, although feral dromedaries roam Australia.
Artiodactyls: Family Cervidae
Save for the Asian water deer, members of the deer family are characterized by bony antlers, which in most species are grown only by males and are annually shed. Cervids range in size from the South American pudú, 15 kilograms (30 pounds) at most, to the Alaska-Yukon subspecies of the moose, which may weigh 727 kilograms (1,600 pounds).
Artiodactyls: Family Giraffidae
This family includes two fantastical-looking African ungulates: the long-necked giraffe of savanna and open woodland and the short-necked okapi of tropical forests. The former is the world’s loftiest mammal: A bull giraffe may be 5.7 meters (18 feet) tall. Stilt-legged browsers, giraffes and okapis strip leaves with tough, prehensile tongues of impressive length.
Artiodactyls: Family Hippopotamidae
Two living species of hippos inhabit Africa: the gargantuan and widespread common hippo and the smaller, much rarer pygmy hippo of West Africa. These squat, heavy-jawed beasts spend much of their time in rivers and lakes, coming ashore at night to graze. Common hippos rank with elephants and rhinos among the world’s heftiest land mammals, with big bulls weighing up to 3,200 kilograms (7,000 pounds).
Artiodactyls: Family Moschidae
The Moschidae include the musk deer, which superficially resemble the cervids but which lack antlers and sport, in males, tusk-like canines. The seven species all inhabit Asia, from Siberia to Vietnam.
Artiodactyls: Family Suidae
Family Suidae includes the intelligent and omnivorous pigs, from the feisty warthog of the African savanna to the huge Eurasian wild boar of northern forests. Courtesy of human introductions, pigs now roam widely outside their native African and Eurasian range. For example, feral hogs, boasting a complicated pedigree of domesticated pig and wild boar, are quite widespread in the southern and western United States.
Artiodactyls: Family Tayassuidae
The peccaries -- the collared, white-lipped and Chacoan -- inhabit the Americas, from the southwestern United States to Argentina. These compact, tusked omnivores are are often mistaken for pigs, which indeed they much resemble in basic body form. Their favored habitats range from desert to heavy rain forest.
Artiodactyls: Family Tragulidae
The most diminutive ungulates of all belong to the Tragulidae family: the chevrotains or mouse-deer, retiring forest-dwellers of African and southern Asia. The smallest chevrotains are smaller than house cats.
The Odd-toed Ungulates: Families Equidae, Rhinocerotidae and Tapiridae
The Equidae include the seven Old World species of modern horses and zebras, the ancestors of which arose in North America. The Tapiridae include the four species of tapirs, three of which inhabit Latin America and one of which is a Southeast Asian native. Finally, the Rhinoceridae family is composed of the five varieties of rhinoceros: two African, three Asian.
- Ungulate Taxonomy; Colin Groves, Peter Grubb
- The Ultimate Ungulate Page: Order Cetartiodactyla
- The Ultimate Ungulate Page: Family Antilocapridae
- The Ultimate Ungulate Page: Family Bovidae
- The Ultimate Ungulate Page: Family Camelidae
- The Ultimate Ungulate Page: Family Cervidae
- Alaska Department of Fish and Game: Moose
- Animal Diversity Web: Hippopotamus amphibius
- The Ultimate Ungulate Page: Family Moschidae
- The Wildlife Society: Feral Swine in North America
- Photo Credit pum_eva/iStock/Getty Images
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