If the Shoe Fits: Animals That Wear Boots

You don’t have to wear Prada or Gucci to remain fashionable: Check out these animals strutting their stuff in booties.

Elephant

Chhouk the orphan elephant (see video above) now roams the forests of Cambodia with a prosthetic boot. Chhouk was found severely malnourished and missing his front left foot, likely due to a run-in with a poacher’s snare.

Wildlife rescuers fitted the Asian elephant with a prosthetic, and now he’s back on his feet, thanks to the conservation group Wildlife Alliance. Because the prosthetic boot will need replacing after years of wear and tear, Chhouk will never be released back into the wild, but park officials say the “inspirational elephant” has a new lease on life.

Gentoo Penguin

Akemi the gentoo penguin was outfitted with beer cozies after contracting bumblefoot—a bacterial infection that’s common in captive birds, CBCNews reported.

Akemi the gentoo penguin in her fancy footwear. Photograph by Karen Moxley/CBC

When the young bird came down with the condition, zookeepers at the Calgary Zoo in Canada encased her flippers in beer cozies to protect her feet until they healed. Fastened with duct tape and zippers, the booties come with an endorsement by Carlsberg—the brewery that donated the material. Cheers to penguins!

penguin in boots picture
Akemi with her life partner (right). Photograph by Karen Moxley/CBC

Dung Beetles

An international team of scientists recently outfitted dung beetles with silicone boots as part of an experiment to find out how the African insects handle the savannah heat, which can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). Dung beetles typically climb on top of moist balls of poo to stay cool, but those with the modern footgear didn’t need to rely on the ball as much as those who went bootless, their study showed.

The research was awarded a 2013 Ignobel Prize last week. University of the Witwatersrand professor Marcus Byrne‘s speech included the phrase “you can’t do science without balls,” according to the South African publication Financial Mail.

Duck

Duckie is the most fashion-conscious fowl in Southern California. The pet duck sports boots made of purple neoprene, the material used to fashion wetsuits. Duckie’s owner used to take him on long walks down San Diego’s beaches, wrapping his feet in duct tape to prevent hot sand burns, the Huffington Post reported.

But locals were worried that the duct tape would hurt the bird’s feet, not to mention his street cred. So the folks at Surf ‘N’ Sea Custom Wetsuits fitted Duckie with tiny booties—fancy footwear for webbed feet.

Pigs

Forget Puss in Boots. Accessorize your porker with some snazzy shoes, and they’ll be the talk of the farm. Teacup pigs are so small when they’re born—weighing only 9 ounces—that they can fit into baby booties. But if you live in Oklahoma, playing dress-up with swine is off-limits. According to state law, it’s “illegal to have the hind legs of farm animals in your boots,” The Examiner reported.

What other animals have you seen wearing boots?

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Wildlife

Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato is a science journalist who loves em dashes, ’80s music and parasites. She has a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism with concentrations in science journalism, photography, and radio reporting. Contact her at news@mbloudoff.com, and follow her on Twitter at @mbloudoff.