Article

Motions of the running horse and cheetah revisited: Fundamental mechanics of the transverse and rotary gallop

Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alta, Canada T2N 4N1.
Journal of The Royal Society Interface (Impact Factor: 3.92). 11/2008; 6(35):549-59. DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2008.0328
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Mammals use two distinct gallops referred to as the transverse (where landing and take-off are contralateral) and rotary (where landing and take-off are ipsilateral). These two gallops are used by a variety of mammals, but the transverse gallop is epitomized by the horse and the rotary gallop by the cheetah. In this paper, we argue that the fundamental difference between these gaits is determined by which set of limbs, fore or hind, initiates the transition of the centre of mass from a downward-forward to upward-forward trajectory that occurs between the main ballistic (non-contact) portions of the stride when the animal makes contact with the ground. The impulse-mediated directional transition is a key feature of locomotion on limbs and is one of the major sources of momentum and kinetic energy loss, and a main reason why active work must be added to maintain speed in locomotion. Our analysis shows that the equine gallop transition is initiated by a hindlimb contact and occurs in a manner in some ways analogous to the skipping of a stone on a water surface. By contrast, the cheetah gallop transition is initiated by a forelimb contact, and the mechanics appear to have much in common with the human bipedal run. Many mammals use both types of gallop, and the transition strategies that we describe form points on a continuum linked even to functionally symmetrical running gaits such as the tölt and amble.

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