There are many different things that are easy to recognize about a beaver, but perhaps their paws are not the first that you would think of. As highly specialized animals, perfectly adapted to thrive in the waterways of North America and Eurasia, beavers use their paws for a variety of purposes.
This article will go into detail about the paws that beavers have, including how they look and how they are used, so that you can understand everything there is to know about the feet of these adorable, iconic creatures.
Do Beavers’ Front and Rear Paws Look the Same?
Table of Contents
- 1 Do Beavers’ Front and Rear Paws Look the Same?
- 2 How Big Is a Beaver Paw?
- 3 Do Beavers Have Webbed Feet?
- 4 How Many Toes Do Beavers Have?
- 5 Do Beavers Have Sharp Claws and What Do They Use Their Claws For?
The first interesting thing to note about the paws of a beaver is that the front and rear feet are noticeably different. Not only do they not look the same, but beavers also use their front and rear paws very differently as well, so they are adapted to function in different ways.
Beavers use their front paws for manipulating objects and more dextrous tasks like carrying twigs or digging. As such, these paws are smaller and much more hand-like than their rear paws are.
Though they are still used for walking on all fours, beavers don’t really use their front paws for propulsion when they are swimming.
The rear paws on a beaver are adapted to help them swim through the water with ease. These paws are much larger than those at the front and they are webbed to help them propel themselves when they are in the water.
Beavers don’t use their rear paws to hold or interact with objects, instead, they are mostly designed to help with movement.
Another interesting difference between their front and rear paws is that there is almost no fur on a beaver’s back feet. This reduces the amount of water resistance on these paws and therefore helps them to move more efficiently while they are swimming.
How Big Is a Beaver Paw?
Because their paws are used for such different jobs, they are also noticeably different in size and shape. The front paws of a beaver are relatively small and petite but the paws on their hind legs are significantly larger.
- Front foot: A beaver’s front foot is usually 2.5-3.75 inches in length and around 2.25-3.5 inches in width.
- Hind foot: The hind foot of a beaver is much larger in comparison, usually measuring somewhere between 4.75 and 7 inches long and from 3.25 to 5.25 inches wide.
Do Beavers Have Webbed Feet?
Only the rear feet of a beaver are actually webbed, their front paws are almost like little hands. Between the toes of their rear feet, beavers have large amounts of skin webbing which allows their feet to act like flippers while they are swimming. Webbed feet catch the water as they kick, propelling the animal forwards with greater speed.
A beaver’s front paws, on the other hand, do not have any webbing between the digits. This allows these paws to have a much greater range of movement and means they can pick up, manipulate, and otherwise interact with objects.
Because they are small and are not webbed, beavers generally keep their front paws close to their chests and out of the way while they are swimming, rather than using them to paddle.
How Many Toes Do Beavers Have?
On both their front and rear paws, beavers have five toes, which gives their paws an almost hand-like appearance. On their front paws, beavers actually have a semi-opposable little finger, rather than an opposable thumb like humans have, which makes their hands much more nimble.
The five toes on a beaver’s back paws are much longer in comparison to those on their front paws, and they are less dextrous. Longer toes mean that the rear paws are less maneuverable but have a greater surface area for underwater propulsion.
Do Beavers Have Sharp Claws and What Do They Use Their Claws For?
Beavers have claws on both their front and rear feet, though those on the front paws are usually sharper and more pointed. The claws that beavers have, are specially adapted for some specific uses. Interestingly, beavers have a slightly unique claw called a “split-nail” to help them with grooming.
The claws on a beaver’s paws help them with digging, grooming, and on some occasions even fighting.
Beaver Claws Help WIth Digging
Beavers use their paws and claws for digging, which is something that they are surprisingly adept at. These animals are famous for their construction skills, but these aren’t just limited to cutting down trees and layering sticks and branches together.
The long, sharp claws on their front paws are great for digging and beavers will dig for a number of different reasons. When they are building their dams, beavers will dig up mud to line the walls for waterproofing, plugging gaps that water might get through, and providing insulation to the inner chambers.
Not all beavers choose to live in dams and lodges, some will dig burrows on the riverbank instead. Sometimes they will also combine the two and dig tunnels and burrows which connect to a larger lodge structure. They will even dig canals to divert water when they need to!
Beavers Use Their Claws For Grooming
One of the most interesting adaptations to the beaver’s claws comes in the form of a specialized split nail on the second toe of their feet. This is essentially a claw that has a second nail attached to it so that it can function like a comb.
When beavers groom their fur, they gather an oily secretion from a gland on the underside of their abdomen, which they then spread over their bodies.
They use their claws, and in particular, their split-nail, to comb the substance throughout their bodies. This oil gives a special waterproof coating and keeps their bodies clean and dry while they are swimming.
Lastly, Beavers Use Their Claws When Fighting
If necessary, beavers will also use their sharp claws for fighting. They are not naturally aggressive creatures but can defend themselves and their territory with their large incisors and long claws if they feel threatened. It is not common for beavers to fight amongst themselves, but it can be dangerous when they do.