Creatures of Middle-Earth and how to know them through their tracks
Dwarvish feet leave a print that is deep, as if the foot were churning in the ground for ages, even though the fellow is quickly passing through. Their feet are very wide, wider in proportion to the length of their feet as any folk you will know on Arda. But the feet tend to point outward, away from the direction of travel, at a slight angle. If the dwarf is barefoot, you will see that the big toe is about the same size as the second toe.
Coupled with the soft footwear worn by the elven folk, plus their remarkably delicate tread, an average elf leaves little or no trace of his passing. If an elf track can be seen at all, one can see that the prints of the narrow left and right feet line up nearly perfectly, and the toes always point in the directing of travel. An elf’s second toe is always longer than the big toe.
An elf-track may be discerned by the most evolved tracker, through the art of spirit tracking.
Of course, hobbits are often barefoot. In this regard they are often confused with snagae or lower-ranking orcs, however, their toes are even and well-formed and the second toe is always longer than the big toe beside it. Additionally, a track from a hobbit is normally more stealthy and sure than any orc track that you may see. But an orcish foot will always have a large spacing between the big toe and the second toe, and this is almost never seen in hobbit feet.
One of the easiest ways to begin to learn tracking on your own, is you examine your own tracks.
Walk to and fro across various surfaces. Walk, run, stop, turn. See how the marks in the soil change with your every move. Watch the marks change over time.
Then go ahead and track your friends, with their permission of course.
- "Orcs' usual pace is a steady four mph. They can keep this up for five hours but then need one hour rest. They can thus cover at need 4 x 20 = 80 miles per diem, and can do this for five days and then need long rest so in five days they can cover 400 miles but must then rest. At need for short periods they can trot from 6 mph for about 50 miles. Isengarders could go a little faster and need only ½ hour rests."
-Marquette MSS 4/2/19
A sure sign of an orcish footprint, particularly if the foot is unshod, is the remarkable space between the big toe and the second toe on that foot. There are many varieties of orc; most of them can be categorized by size and whether they have shoes or not. Generally speaking, the larger the print, the more dangerous the orc, and the fact that the creature has shoes suggests that it also carries more sophisticated weapons.
Drúedain people have never been seen to be wearing shoes. While intermediate between hobbits and Men in size, the tracks of a Drúedain share many of the characteristics of both groups. Like elves, a Drúedain track may be almost impossible to follow.
Of course, a cave-troll is much larger than any common people on Middle-earth. In addition, the feet of a cave-troll give the impression of being flat and toeless, but the truth is that the toes are heavily webbed, hiding the distinct toes in the print.
The prints of most beasts can be grouped into the general shape left by the animal’s foot. That is, a footprint’s general shape or profile can be used as a general guide for what kind of animal it is. To refine the type of animal that created that print, it is then necessary to look at the print in greater detail.
Deer belong to the family that also includes cows, goats, pigs and sheep. They all leave the mark from their two big toenails, or cleaves, on the ground. Sometimes a mark from a pair of dew claws is visible behind these marks as well. The individual species of creature may further be determined by looking at shape and proportion of these cleaves.
- Slot: Deer track or print
- Cleave: One of a deer’s two toes.
Fallow deer slots are slightly smaller than those of red deer, and narrower, more elongated.
Guide size: fallow deer buck, 6.5-8 centimetres (3 inches) long; 4-5 centimetres (1½ inches) wide; fallow deer doe 5-6 centimetres (2 inches) long, 3-4 centimetres (1¼ inches) wide.
The shape left by each cleave often tends to be pointed at the front, and to have almost straight, parallel outer sides at the rear.
As befits a large animal, typical red deer slots are noticeably big, both in length and width.
Guide forefoot size for a fully grown red deer stag: 8-9 centimetres (3½ inches) long, 6-7 centimetres (2½ inches) wide. For a fully grown red deer hind: 6-7 centimetres (2½ inches) long, 4-5 centimetres (1½ inches) wide.
The red deer slot is characterised by a rounded outline at the back of each cleave, whilst at the front, the outer edges of each curve symmetrically towards the tip.
Roe deer slots are small, and often narrow and pointed at the end. Guide size for an adult roe deer of either sex: 4-5 centimetres (1½ inches) long, 3-4 centimetres (1¼ inches) wide.
These horrific creatures will rarely touch ground, and if they do so, they have rarely been seen to walk any distance, preferring instead the beat of their leathery wings.
In the event that one does rest upon the ground, it will leave marks of its claws, which are like those of a large bird or lizard, but only two in number. The great tail and wings may also leave marks upon the ground as well.
Many Rangers have never seen a Mûmakil. These immense creatures are only native to Harad. Their giant ears are as fans, they carry spears in their mouths and their noses are long and like a snake, truly a wonder to behold.
The Mûmakil has five hoofed toes on the front feet and four on the hind. Sometimes the outer hooves on the front feet and the outer and inner on the hind are missing, having been torn out or worn away. The feet have a thick layer of cartilage which acts as a shock absorber. When placed on the ground in walking, the soles splay out, and when the foot is raised, they shrink. This layer allows the Mûmakil to move without making a sound.
The main pad is quite large with an angled posterior edge. The claws are blunt and leave very large imprints.
The overall shape of the prints from all members of the cat family is round. Nearly all cats keep their claws shaethed when they step. You will also notice that generally a lynx or other cat will place her rear foot in the same place that her front foot had been.
Generally, this member of the dog family shows claws in his print, and the overall shape of the print is oval.