Watch the Feet

. Wednesday, February 4

In 1904, Eadweard Muybridge used video to record the way a horse walks and gallops. This classic sequence is widely used and accepted, and accurately shows the horse's progression of footfalls that keep the animal balanced. As it turns out, all four-legged animals use the same footfall sequence, with the timing of those footfalls the only difference.

A recent study, however, has found that half of the depictions of four-legged animals walking in museums, text books, anatomy books, catalogs and toys are wrong. If done correctly, models of quadrupeds walking would not fall over. Stability comes from the correct sequence of footfalls as left-hind, left-fore, right-hind and right-fore, which leaves 3 feet on the ground at all times. The researchers decided it was carelessness and ignorance of biomechanics that caused such a high rate of error universally, around the world.

Interestingly, the highest rate of accuracy in depicting four-legged movement was found in Hollywood productions of imagined animals such as in Jurrasic Park and Lord of the Rings. Now, if only toy manufacturers and text book authors were so imaginative...

The questions that come to mind about this include why some egghead thought this topic was important enough to warrant applying for and receiving a research grant to conduct the study, and why he couldn't see the benefits of eye-hand coordination development in children trying to keep their toy horse upright. Just imagine how slow and boring the news would become if we saw an increase in irrelevant studies like this. Or, maybe it isn't irrelevant. Who knows?