Artiodactyls general characteristics, classification

David Holt
Artiodactyls general characteristics, classification

The artiodactyls they are ungulate placental mammals, whose legs end in hooves, with an even number of functional toes on each one. The first fossils confirm their existence in the Eocene period, approximately 54 million years ago.

This group of animals make up the order of the most numerous mammals, and around 235 species can be counted, which present a diversity of sizes, shapes and habitats. They are herbivores, except for some species that feed on small insects.

Artiodactyls have been exploited for economic purposes by humans since prehistoric times. There is evidence that indicates the reindeer as an important element in the survival of the Cro-Magnon man, who used its meat for food, its skin for clothing, and its bones to build tools..

Currently these animals have been domesticated, marking a great advance in history. For example, the llama and the camel are used as means of transport and for heavy work, the pig and the cow as food, and the sheep in the manufacture of clothing and footwear..

The vast majority are gregarious, thus allowing them to protect themselves from predators and consume more forage. Some of its representatives are the giraffe, wild boar and the bull.

Article index

  • 1 General characteristics
    • 1.1 -Physical appearance
  • 2 Classification
    • 2.1 Antilocapridae
    • 2.2 Bovidae
    • 2.3 Camelidae
    • 2.4 Cervidae
    • 2.5 Giraffidae
    • 2.6 Hippopotamidae
    • 2.7 Moschidae
    • 2.8 Suidae
    • 2.9 Tayassuidae
    • 2.10 Tragulidae
  • 3 References

General characteristics

The llama is part of the order Artiodactyls

Artiodactyls have peculiarities that distinguish them from the other groups into which the animal kingdom is divided. In them the size is variable, the smallest species, the mouse deer, measures 45 cm, while the giraffe can reach 5.5 meters high.

-Physical appearance


Their toes are present in even numbers (2 or 4), with the exception of Tayasuids which have three on their hind legs. They are covered by keratin, a substance that hardens them and forms the hooves..

Its locomotor axis is between the third and fourth fingers, which tend to be longer and to fuse with each other, forming the reed. The second and fifth fingers are reduced or absent.

Herbivorous mammals do not have the necessary enzyme to break down plant cellulose, so they use microorganisms to do so. Therefore, in addition to their true stomach, they have at least one extra chamber where this bacterial fermentation takes place..

The number of these "false stomachs" can vary in each species, cows have 4, while pigs have a small one.


It is relatively large, with a long and narrow skull. Some species have horns or antlers, which they use frequently in some social interactions.

The number and type of teeth vary, but the upper incisors are always reduced or absent. The canines are small, although in some they are elongated in the form of fangs. The molars have longitudinal ridges that they use to grind.


Some species have a glandular system that emits a characteristic smell, which is used in the marking of the territory and in their social and sexual relationships. These can be located on the head, groin, between the fingers, or in the anal area..

Reproductive organs

The penis is shaped like an ā€œSā€ and stretches during erection. This sex organ is located under the skin of the belly. The testicles are inside the scrotum and are located outside the body, in the abdomen.

In females, the ovaries are near the pelvic inlet and the uterus is divided in two (uterus bicornis). The number of mammary glands varies, being related to the size of the litter. In some species these unite, forming an udder in the inguinal region.



They are an endemic family of North America, whose only species that currently lives is the pronghorn or American antelope. It is a mammal similar to the antelope, it is ruminant, it has a short goat and both sexes have horns on their heads..


In this herbivorous family are included sheep, goats, bulls, among others. Some may have strong musculature, like the bull, and others are agile to travel long distances quickly, like gazelles..

They live in habitats such as the tundra, desert, or tropical forests. Most species form large groups, with a complex social structure.


This group is made up of three genera: Camelus, which inhabits the plains of Asia and Africa, while the genera Vicugna and Alpaca are located in the Andean mountains..

They are herbivorous animals, with a long, thin neck. They do not have hooves, but two toes with strong nails and foot pads, on which most of their weight falls..


The legs of the cervidae are thin, having the hooves divided in two. Their neck is long, as is their head, which makes it easy for them to reach the high leaves of the bushes. Deer and elk are examples of this family.


Currently there are only two species of this family, both located in Africa, the giraffe and the okapi. Their horns are covered with fur, making them durable. They do not have false hooves and their hind limbs are shorter than the front limbs..


Its body is large, legs short and thick. They have four toes, but contrary to the other ungulates, they do not have hooves, these being replaced by the foot pads. Your stomach is divided into three chambers. There are only two species, the common hippo and the pygmy.


They are known as musk deer, because they have glands that secrete a waxy substance with a strong smell, which is used in the cosmetic industry to make perfume and soap..

Males have large fangs that protrude downward and out of their mouths. Their diet is composed of herbs, mosses and lichens.


It is made up of wild boars and pigs, adding a total of 16 species, distributed throughout Eurasia and Africa, although they have already been introduced to other continents..

These omnivorous feeding ruminant mammals have a large head and very small eyes. Its poor vision is compensated by an excellent development of the sense of smell, which allows it to detect its food and predators.


This family is known as pigs or mountain pigs. On their face they have a snout that ends in a kind of characteristic jelly-like disk and very small eyes. To walk they use the central toes of their front legs, the other toes may appear atrophied or be totally absent.


The stomach of fawns, as this family is also known, has four chambers. Its diet is almost exclusively on vegetables, except for the water mouse deer, which also eats small insects..

They lack upper incisor teeth, have short legs and their females give birth to a single young..


  1. Alan William Gentry (2018). Artiodactyl mammal. Enclyclopedia Britannica. Taken from:
  2. Etnyre, E .; J. Lande; A. Mckenna and J. Berini (2011). Artiodactyla. Animal Diversity Web. Taken from:
  3. Wikipedia (2018). Even-toed ungulate. Taken from
  4. Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, T. A. Dewey. (2018). Artiodactyla classification. Animal Diversity Web. Taken from:
  5. Klappenbach Laura (2018). Even-Toed Hoofed Mammals. ThoughtCo. Taken from:

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