Evaluation of primary epidermal lamellar density in the forefeet of near-term fetal Australian feral and domesticated horses.
Objective - To investigate the density of the primary epidermal lamellae (PEL) around the solar circumference of the forefeet of near-term fetal feral and nonferal (ie, domesticated) horses. Sample - Left forefeet from near-term Australian feral (n=14) and domesticated (4) horse fetuses. Procedures - Near-term feral horse fetuses were obtained from culled mares within 10 minutes of death; fetuses that had died in utero 2 weeks prior to anticipated birth date and were delivered from live Thoroughbred mares were also obtained. Following disarticulation at the carpus, the left forefoot of each fetus was frozen during dissection and data collection. In a standard section of each hoof, the stratum internum PEL density was calculated at the midline center (12 o'clock) and the medial and lateral break-over points (11 and 1 o'clock), toe quarters (10 and 2 o'clock), and quarters (4 and 6 o'clock). Values for matching lateral and medial zones were averaged and expressed as 1 density. Density differences at the 4 locations between the feral and domesticated horse feet were assessed by use of imaging software analysis. Results - In fetal domesticated horse feet, PEL density did not differ among the 4 locations. In fetal feral horse feet, PEL density differed significantly among locations, with a pattern of gradual reduction from the dorsal to the palmar aspect of the foot. The PEL density distribution differed significantly between fetal domesticated and feral horse feet. Conclusions and Clinical Relevance - Results indicated that PEL density distribution differs between fetal feral and domesticated horse feet, suggestive of an adaptation of feral horses to environment challenges.