Characterisation of white line degeneration in sheep and evidence for genetic influences on its occurrence

JE Conington, L Nicoll, S Mitchell, L Bunger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Shelly hoof in sheep occurs when the hoof wall becomes detached from the laminar corium; it often then becomes impacted with debris leading to infection, pain and lameness. The problem of shelly hoof is under-reported and is often confused with classical footrot. A study was conducted using data on 9,169 Blackface and Texel sheep from 22 farms in the UK. The aim of the study was to estimate the prevalence of shelly hoof in these breeds, to quantify the genetic basis to shelly hoof, and to describe a pilot trail to characterise the physical properties of horn using Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM). The results showed that shelly hoof has a high prevalence (47% for Blackface and 24% for Texel ewes) and is under moderate genetic control (h2 = 0.3). The TEM images showed fragmented dorsal wall horn, microscopic crevices leading deeper into the hoof accompanied by bacteria and other micro-organisms. The invasion of bacteria was facilitated by separation of the cells in a characteristic ‘un-zipping’ phenomenon, poor attachment of the keratin to the cell membranes, poor cell membrane quality with a ‘lace-chain’ effect and incomplete keratinisation of the cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481 - 489
Number of pages9
JournalVeterinary Research Communications
Issue number5
Publication statusFirst published - 2010

Bibliographical note



  • Footrot
  • Genetic resistance
  • Heritability
  • Lameness
  • Sheep
  • Shelly hoof
  • Welfare
  • White line degeneration


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