- This page is about the animal anatomy feature. Claw may refer to the pirate-themed Captain Claw PC game, or the character Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget.
Claw refers to the nail of just about any land-dwelling vertebrate animal besides primates and ungulates. The term claw usually refers to a toenail that is long, has a tightly curved cross section, and tapers to a sharp point. It may also refer to the pincer of a scorpion or of other arthropods such as lobsters or crabs.
In animals, claws are typically used for traction, particularly in tree-climbing species. In cats and raptor birds (and presumably the meat-eating dinosaurs), claws are often markedly sharp, which makes them useful for climbing, gripping prey and inflicting damage. In dogs, claws are usually blunt by comparison and serve mainly to help prevent feet from slipping when running on loose or smooth surfaces.
In raptors, also known as birds of prey, the claws are called talons.
Felines, except for adult cheetahs, have retractable claws. In a relaxed position, claws are sheathed within the toes, and only the tips of the are visible, if any part of the claw is visible at all. This allows the claws to be kept sharp, as well as quieter walking. Unlike other species, the cheetah does not have retractable claws.
The fossa, a species of carnivorous mammal from Madagascar, has semi-retractable claws.
Claws in artwork
Whether a furry character has claws or not depends on how much trouble the artist is willing to go to, as well as on certain preferences. Often artists give their furries nails similar to humans, but narrower and come to a sharper point. The presence of claws especially on the feet of a character serve to tie it to the species by which the character's design was inspired. On the other hand, if a character is rendered in a style intended to emphasize endearing qualities (cuteness), claws are generally omitted so as to avoid the perception of fierceness which claws may suggest.