Animals' gait is often depicted incorrectly

Artists, toy designers, and even veterinary book authors often inaccurately depict the way animals walk.
Mar 24, 2009
By staff

You see pets walking into your practice every day. But have you ever paid attention to how they walk? If not, you’re not alone. Taxidermists, toy designers, artists and other professionals faced with the task of recreating animals’ gait often get it wrong.

According to a study by Gabor Horvath at Lorand Eotvos University in Budapest Hungary, four-legged animals always walk in the same pattern: The animal steps forward with the left hind leg, then the left foreleg, then the right hind leg, followed by the right foreleg. Only the timing of the steps varies from animal to animal.

The researchers studied depictions of animals in fine arts, museums, toy shops, and even veterinary books, and found that those who depict four-legged animals in motion get it wrong about 50 percent of the time. “This high error rate is particularly unexpected in a time where high-speed cameras and the Internet offer ideal possibilities to obtain reliable quantitative information about tetrapod walking,” Horvath says.

The study results were published in the January 27, 2009 issue of Current Biology.