PULLMAN, Wash. – Cinco isn’t your average horse; he was born with five hooves.

Following a rare surgery last week at Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, equine veterinarians are hopeful the 6-month-old horse will have a better chance at a life free of complications without its extra digit.

“We didn’t notice it for a while,” Sharmen Scafani, Cinco’s owner said. “Then, when he was about two weeks old, my daughter sent me a photo and asked me if I noticed something. “She told me ‘look at his right front leg.’ When I blew it up, I was like holy moly!”

A radiograph shows Cinco’s fifth hoof.
A radiograph shows Cinco’s fifth hoof.

Cinco was polydactyl and had an abnormal fifth hoof growing from his front leg near his fetlock joint.

For equine veterinarian Dr. Kelly Farnsworth, it’s just the second such case he’s seen in his nearly 30-year career.

“This one is different than the ones I’ve seen in the literature, each one of these are a little unique in character as far as what bones there are,” Dr. Farnsworth said. “He had a fully formed little foot with all the bones and tendons.”

He said in Cinco’s case, if the extra appendage was not removed, it would likely grow and could lead to a traumatic injury and mobility issues later in life, noting it would at some point get caught on a fence or in the brush.

Sharmen Scafani, Cinco’s owner, said the fifth hoof has grown a bunch since Cinco was born and was almost touching the ground when he came to WSU.

That hoof won’t be hitting the ground anymore.

Fourth-year veterinary student Sarah Calvin brushes Cinco
Fourth-year veterinary student Sarah Calvin brushes Cinco following surgery to remove his fifth hoof. Cinco was polydactyl and had an abnormal fifth hoof growing from his front right leg.

Farnsworth led the successful surgery Thursday that removed Cinco’s fifth hoof and the bones associated with it.

While the surgery is rare, Farnsworth said it is not very invasive and Cinco should be healed as early as the coming weeks.

“He’s an overall healthy young horse. We’re just hopeful the surgery will improve his quality of life for his next 25 to 30 years,” Farnsworth said.

Cinco was also castrated at WSU to avoid genetically passing on the birth defect.

He made the 7-hour trip back to Whitehall, Montana, Friday.

Media contacts:

  • Josh Babcock, College of Veterinary Medicine Communications, 509-339-3423, joshua.babcock@wsu.edu