Spoor Guide

Field guide

Steenbok (Raphicerus campestris)

Steenbok (Raphicerus campestris)
Since this is a small animal, the tracks
it leaves are small with sharp points. As
the animal ages, however, these points
become worn, because before the
animal defecates or urinates, the
steenbok clears a spot, and then covers
up its faeces afterwards by scraping
soil over it with its front hooves. Thus, in
older individuals, the front of the
fore-hooves will all be more worn away
than those of the hind-hooves are.

Impala (Aepyceros melampus melampus)

Impala (Aepyceros melampus melampus)
The front of the spoor is pointed while
the back is rounded. With these
gregarious animals, obtaining single
spoor is relatively difficult. However,
males evicted from the breeding herds
tend to remain in smaller bachelor
herds, which makes it easier to obtain
their tracks. Their “pronking” behaviour
also causes wear to the front of the
hooves but not as badly as that of the

Nyala (Tragelaphus angasii)

Nyala (Tragelaphus angasii)
The forefeet of the males are relatively
broader than the female’s. The adult
male tracks are also a lot larger than
the female’s. The tracks are also a lot
more rounded than that of the impala,
with a blunter front to the hooves.

Buffalo (Syncarus caffer)

Buffalo (Syncarus caffer)
The hind foot of the buffalo is much
more rounded than the front foot, which
has a more pointed front. It can be seen
that the picture here is that of a front
foot. When walking, it lifts one leg at a
time, while the other three feet remain
on the ground. The hind-foot is,
therefore, always placed behind the
forefoot, so that the spoor is almost
super-imposed when the animal walks.
The dew claws aren’t seen except when
the animal stands in deep mud which
allows the hoof to sink further than
normal and the dew claw becomes
imprinted into the mud.

Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli)

Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli)
The difference between male and female
tracks of zebra is that the hind hooves
of the female are more slender and
more pointed than male’s. However,
because some individuals have
intermediate sizes and shapes
depending on their age, it is extremely
difficult to tell the different sexes apart
based on their tracks.
The Artiodactyls – even-toed ungulates:
This order includes all the animals with two hooves (or a split hoof on each
foot), otherwise known as cloven-hoofed ungulates.

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
This is an interesting animal with an
equally interesting track. Each foot has
four toes (clearly visible in the picture),
with broad nails on each toe. The four
toes are webbed in order to assist with
swimming, although this is not clearly
delineated in the track.

African Civet (Civetticus civetta)

African Civet (Civetticus civetta)
The civet has five toes on the fore- and
hind-feet, but only four toes show on the
tracks of both, as the first toes are set
far back and don’t touch the ground.
The toes have claws and these are
supposed to show in the tracks but in
this example, there are no claw marks
clearly visible.
The difference between dogs and cats
There are a couple of differences between dog and cat tracks, the more
obvious one being the pad. Cats tend to have a tri-lobal pad (three lobes)
whereas dogs have a bi-lobal pad (two lobes). Sometimes this is not too
apparent in the field, but the best example of this is the hyaena versus the
The hyaena has an obvious double lobe on the back of the pad whereas the
lion has three clear lobes to the back of the pad. Another identifying
characteristic, but one that is not always present, is that dogs always have
claw marks at the front of the track, whereas most cats don’t show claws
because they are retractable. But there are exceptions for example, the
cheetah, which is unable to retract its claws.

White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)

The Perissodactyls – odd-toed ungulates:
White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium
The white rhino has a broad track
compared to that of the black rhino. It
has three well-pronounced toes and the
back of the main pad has a very clear
“w” shape which differentiates it from
the black rhino. The cushioned pads on
the soles of the feet have a random
particular pattern which enables
individual animals to be identified and

Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta)

Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta)
What is clear from the picture is the
bi-lobal pad as opposed to the lion’s
spoor, which has three lobes. The claw
marks are not too clear but can be
faintly seen to the trained eye, just
above the pad marks. With hyaenas
having a matriarchal clan system, the
females tend to be bigger than the
males. Thus, it goes without saying that
the female spoor is bigger than the
male’s. The track in the picture is more
than likely a female.

Banded Mongoose (Mungos mungo)

Banded Mongoose (Mungos mungo)
Unfortunately the tracks in the picture
are not very clear, as this particular
mongoose was highly mobile! The
digits, however, are visible. The
mongoose has five toes on the forefeet.
The first one is fairly small and situated
behind the intermediate pad. It has five
toes on the hind-feet. There are claws
on both the hind and front feet. The
claws on the front feet are long and
sharply curved, while those on the rear
feet are heavier, less curved and
shorter. Nails are used for scratching
around to find food amongst the grass
and sand.

Lion (Panthera leo)


Lion (Panthera leo)
The track in the picture belongs to a
male lion. The male’s tracks are a lot
larger and broader than the female’s.
The toes of the female are also more
slender than the male’s. Neither show
claw marks, as their claws are

Leopard (Panthera pardus)


Leopard (Panthera pardus)
The track in the picture is that of a
male. The tracks of the male are a lot
larger and broader than the female’s.
The toes of the female are more
slender. Neither show claw marks, as
their claws are retractable.

Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)

Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)
This is the largest and longest of all
cloven-hoofed tracks. When the giraffe
walks, the two legs on one side swing
more or less in unison; thus the tracks
from the front and back almost overlap
each other. The track is pretty broad
with a blunt front to it. The tracks of the
males are quite a lot bigger than those
of the female.

Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus)

Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus)
Waterbuck tracks are similar to those
of blue wildebeest, but a lot broader in
the rear part of the hooves. They are
also more blunt in the front. The spoor
in the picture is not all that clear, but it
does give the basic detail and shape of
the spoor

Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
Elephant tracks are very interesting
because individual elephants can be
identified from their tracks. This can be
done by tracing the mosaic of cracks
that are found on the base of the foot.
The front feet are round and larger than
the hind feet, which are more oval in
shape. The tracks seen in the picture
are the hind feet as they are more
elongated than the front feet.
Interestingly, it is said that the animal’s
shoulder height can be measured by
multiplying the circumference of the
front foot track 2.5 times!
The rear part of the track is usually
smooth due to the dragging motion
when the elephant puts its feet down
while walking. There are also five hoofed
toes on the front feet but only four on
the hind feet. The front “toe” usually
scuffs the dirt when the animal picks its
foot up, so that the direction in which
the animal is walking can be gauged
fairly easily.

Vervet Monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops)

Vervet Monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops)
Like humans, the vervet monkey has
five digits on each foot, with the thumb
off to the side of the pad and the other
four digits in front. The hands are a lot
smaller than the feet. The feet have an
elongated rear section. The thumb and
the big toe are opposable, and each
finger has a nail, although these are not
visible in the track.

Chacma Baboon (Papio ursinus)

Chacma Baboon (Papio ursinus)
The track of the baboon is very similar
to that of the vervet monkey, just a lot
larger. Each foot has five digits, as do
the hands. The palm is a lot smaller
than the base of the foot. The thumb
and big toe are fully opposable, and
each finger and toe has a nail. Again,
the feet are twice as long as the hands.

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