Yet for all the study and attention paid to quadruped locomotion, how fast they move has not progressed dramatically.
"If you look at running horses, for example, the times of the winners of the Kentucky Derby really haven't changed very much," Beaver said. "Humans have inched up by seconds, and we make a big deal about it. The same is true for horses. In spite of taking the very best and breeding the very best, it really hasn't changed it. That says there's a kind of a limit, and we're near the maximum."
Swimmers in special suits only manage to shave off tenths of a second.
But there are exceptions.
"Secretariat was special and blew many of the records out of the water," Beaver said. "They found the horse had a longer stride so he covered more ground for the same amount of motion and could do it just a little bit faster. I've seen sequences where he and his stablemate are running side by side with the same identical stride, and Secretariat covered a few more inches each time. Also, that horse had a larger heart so he could pump more blood."
Even without bionic-like body parts, humans might want to take a cue from the success of Secretariat's legendary stride and try to perfect their own gait.
Few people walk correctly, contend the writers of an article in the February issue of the Harvard Health Letter, who say the proper locomotive style is "head erect, back straight, arms bent, knees extending and flexing, and feet striking the ground with the heel and pushing off with the toes."
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more on the benefits of walking
All rights reserved