Histological features of the dorsal cortex of the third metacarpal bone mid-diaphysis during postnatal growth in thoroughbred horses. Academic Article uri icon


  • The dorsal cortex of the equine third metacarpal mid-diaphyseal bone was characterised during growth by the histological and microradiographic examination of specimens from 30 horses ranging in age from 2 months to 8 y. Bone from horses aged less than 6 months was characterised by rapid periosteal apposition of circumferential trabeculae of woven bone that were next connected by radial trabeculae to the parent cortex. Deposition of lamellar bone on the inner trabecular surfaces resulted in rows of primary osteons. Replacement of primary bone occurred only after 4 months of age and preferentially in the woven interstitial bone separating rows of primary osteons formed in the postnatal periosteal cortex. Resorption cavities and incompletely filled secondary osteons characterised bone of 1 and 2-y-old horses. Bone from horses older than 3 y contained several generations of secondary osteons, fewer resorption spaces and incompletely filled osteons, and had a greater portion of circumferentially oriented collagen fibres than bone from younger horses. Bone from horses older than 5 y had large resorption cavities characterised by irregular boundaries. We propose that the process of periosteal bone tissue apposition observed in growing foals be called 'saltatory primary osteonal bone formation' and that this process results in faster cortical expansion and larger total surface area for bone deposition than circumferential lamellar, simple primary osteonal, and plexiform mechanisms of periosteal bone formation. We speculate that bone from 1 and 2-y-old horses would be more susceptible to fatigue microdamage resulting from compressive loads because of high porosity, few completed secondary osteons and low proportion of circumferentially oriented collagen fibres.

published proceedings

  • J Anat

author list (cited authors)

  • Stover, S. M., Pool, R. R., Martin, R. B., & Morgan, J. P.

citation count

  • 89

complete list of authors

  • Stover, SM||Pool, RR||Martin, RB||Morgan, JP

publication date

  • December 1992