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With 4 Legs They All Walk the Same, It Seems
Date:2/26/2009

Experts bemoan humans' ineptness in depicting animals' gait

THURSDAY, Feb. 26 (HealthDay News) -- If you have a dog, you probably take it for a walk, at least now and then. But do you actually watch the dog walk? Or, more specifically, can you describe how your dog does it?

If not, you're apparently in good company.

Taxidermists, toy designers, artists and more frequently get it wrong, according to a study on the foot-fall pattern of dogs and other four-legged creatures that was published in Current Biology.

The pattern is formulaic, explained study author Gábor Horváth, a biophysicist at Lorand Eötvös University in Budapest, Hungary. And at a walk, he said, it never varies: The animal steps forward with the left hind leg, followed by the left foreleg, then the right hind leg followed by the right foreleg.

And they walk this way for a very good reason, he explained. Balance.

Three feet are always on the ground at once, creating a supporting triangle "for which the static stability is maximal," Horváth said. Any other pattern would be less stable, he said.

"It's not really complicated," said Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver, a veterinarian and professor in the department of small animal clinical sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University.

It's also not a new finding. Yet those who in some way depict four-legged animals in motion get it wrong about 50 percent of the time, the study found.

Who cares, you might well ask?

The researchers say that toys or model animals might fall over less often if they were depicted with the correct foot-fall pattern. And museum displays and textbook illustrations just ought to get it right, they argue. But there's more.

"People have had an interest in [locomotion] for a long time," Beaver said. "Dog breeders look at how dogs ga
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