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Animals in Motion

Animals in Motion

by Eadweard Muybridge

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"The dry plate's most spectacular early use was by Eadweard Muybridge." — Life
"A really marvelous series of plates." — Nature (London)
"These photographs have resolved many complicated questions." — Art Journal
Here is the largest, most comprehensive selection of Muybridge's famous animal photos — more than


"The dry plate's most spectacular early use was by Eadweard Muybridge." — Life
"A really marvelous series of plates." — Nature (London)
"These photographs have resolved many complicated questions." — Art Journal
Here is the largest, most comprehensive selection of Muybridge's famous animal photos — more than 4,000 high-speed shots of 34 different animals and birds, in 123 different types of actions. Animals are shown walking, running, leaping, flying — in typical actions. The horse alone is shown in more than 40 different ways: galloping with nude rider, trotting, pacing with sulky, cantering, jumping hurdles, carrying, rolling on barrels, and 36 other actions. All photos taken against ruled backgrounds; most actions taken from 3 angles at once: 90 degrees, 60 degrees, rear. Foreshortened views are included.
These are true action photos, stopped in series, taken at speeds up to 1/2000th of a second. Actions are illustrated in series, with as many as 50 shots per action. Muybridge worked with the University of Pennsylvania for three years, made more than 100,000 exposures, and spent more than $50,000. His work has never been superseded as a lifetime reference for animators, illustrators, artists, and art directors.

Product Details

Dover Publications
Publication date:
Dover Anatomy for Artists Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.27(w) x 11.08(h) x 1.08(d)

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Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1957 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-12999-0



Of the various methods of animal motion, the walk claims our first consideration; it is characterized by an immutable sequence of limb movements, common alike to man and beast, and there is little doubt of its having been the primitive system of locomotion employed, on their evolution, by all the terrestrial vertebrates.

The law governing this method of progress is, that the naturally superior or stronger limb takes precedence of its inferior lateral limb in being lifted, thrust forward, and again placed on the ground.

During the walk of a quadruped whose constant habit is to travel on the surface of the ground, and to employ all four of its feet for the purposes of support and propulsion, the successive foot-impacts, assuming the notation to commence with the landing of [??], will be as in figure 9. [??] is, of course, being followed by [??] in the next stride.

When a horse is standing with the weight of the body equitably distributed over his four legs, and under these conditions commences to walk, the initiatory movement will invariably be made with a hind-foot; the lateral fore-foot will next follow, and under the normal conditions of regular progress this fore-foot will be lifted in advance of the suspended hind-foot being placed on the ground.

The rapidity with which any one foot follows any other foot, or the duration of its contact with the ground, vary greatly, not only with different species of animals, but also with the same animal under apparently similar conditions.

Illustration 1 shows twelve consecutive phases of two steps, or one half of a complete stride of a horse, walking at a speed of about four and a quarter miles an hour. In phase 1, although [??] is still flat on the ground, it has practically relinquished its function of support, and, as in 2, 3, and 4, that duty is imposed on the diagonals [??] [??]; 4 exhibits [??] a fraction of an inch only above the ground, but it assists the labours of [??] [??] in 5.

In 6 [??] has broken the alliance; in this phase, and also in 7, 8, and 9, the right laterals alone furnish the needed support comes to the aid of these laterals in 10 just as [??] is being advanced beyond [??] The toe of [??] still lingers on the ground in 12; a phase functionally in comparative advance of [??] in 1.

One half of the stride is now completed. Assuming that no interruption takes place, and the horse to be walking, under the usual conditions, on level ground, the remaining half –with a substitution of the right feet for the left–will be executed in practically the same manner.

This analysis determines the successive methods of support afforded by the feet of a horse during a normal stride of the walk to be as in figure 10.

The notation may, of course, be commenced at any phase, but in the normal walk of a horse it will invariably be found that the support is thrown, during one stride, twice on the laterals, twice on the diagonals, twice on two fore feet and one hind-foot, and twice on two hind feet and one fore-foot; eight different systems of support.

Plate 1 illustrates twelve consecutive phases of a powerful draught horse pulling a dead weight of perhaps one thousand pounds, requiring a continuous strain.

The synchronous fore-shortenings are on Plate 2.

Plate 20 demonstrates the walk of a thorough-bred Kentucky mare, who is also represented in the canter (Plate 61) and the gallop (Plate 71),

When an animal is walking very slowly, the supports are not furnished alternately by two and by three feet, as in the normal walk, but by alternations of three and of four feet, each foot is placed in regular succession on the ground in advance of its preceding foot being lifted therefrom. Had the ass in Plate 89 been walking a little more slowly, four feet on the ground would have been seen in phases 1, 7, and 12. An animal grazing in the fields affords an illustration of a very slow walk, and a good opportunity of studying the sequence of foot-fallings.

The ox, the goat, and hog, as representatives of double-toed, or cloven-footed animals; and the elephant, Bactrian camel, lion, dog, raccoon, and capybara as representatives of soft-footed quadrupeds, will be found, in their respective plates, to follow, while walking, the same sequence of foot-fallings as that disclosed by the horse.

A noteworthy confirmation of the law governing the walk was found in the case of a child suffering from infantile paralysis, whose only method of locomotion was by the use of her limbs exactly in the manner of a quadruped (illustration 2). In her progress it was revealed that not only was the regular system of limb movements used, but the support of the body devolved, in their proper sequence, on the laterals and on the diagonals. The diagram in this chapter is as faithful a representation of the consecutive impacts by that child as it is of those by an elephant, a turtle, or a mouse.

In our enumeration of movements crawling is classified as a method of walking. Illustration 3 shows a strong, healthy child crawling on her hands and knees. Phase 4 clearly demonstrates support on the diagonals alone; that afforded by the laterals is not so easily recognized; the succession, however, is indisputable.

With man walking erect, as we find in illustration 4, the culmination of the swing of the arm must be considered as the equivalent of placing its hand on the ground. It will be seen in phase 1, illustration 4, that although the right foot is not yet flat on the ground, and the toe of the left foot remains in contact therewith, the right arm has commenced its forward thrust, which terminates in six, before the heel of the left foot reaches the ground. In seven, the right hand is on its backward swing, while the left has commenced its forward motion. Attempts were made to obtain visible evidence of the tendency of a bird's wing while using its legs in walking; the resulting information was inconclusive. In Plate 142 we have an animal that apparently disregards the law governing the walk. Although the ape family, during their progress on the surface of the ground, are accustomed to use all four of their limbs as supports, their constant habit of climbing has so developed the strength of their anterior limbs, or arms, that they have become the superior, and consequently, in their movements, usually take precedence of their laterals.

If, while a horse is walking, two moving feet are seen respectively in advance of, and to the rear of the supporting legs, they are diagonals; if two moving feet are seen under the body, between the supporting legs, they are laterals, as disclosed by phases 2 and 7, illustration 1. In Plate 142, phases 1 and 3, this rule is reversed; but it is not invariably followed. An ape will occasionally walk on all-fours, with the same order of foot-fallings as that which characterizes the rotatory-gallop.

The family of apes, when climbing, make prior use of the stronger lateral, as may be seen in Plate 144, representing a baboon climbing a pole.

The sloth would find its horizontally suspended walk difficult to execute with any relaxation of diagonal support, as Plate 145 demonstrates.

The movements of animals in their relation to design in Art requires far broader treatment than is possible in the present volume; its province in this important matter will therefore be confined to a superficial review of the expression given to some of the movements, as illustrated by a few examples of ancient and modern times. It is worthy of note that the presumed most ancient relic yet discovered of artistic design represents the quadrupedal walk scientifically correct. The position of the limbs of the reindeer in the well-known etching by some prehistoric artist, is precisely the same as photographed from nature in phase 8 of illustration 1.

The inflexible laws of an all-powerful priesthood, and the superstitions of a docile people, prohibited the Egyptian artist from giving more than one expression to the walk of a quadruped, except to that of the horse; the exception is probably due to the fact of the horse being an unknown animal in Egypt when the decree was made. The phase adopted can readily be seen by watching a cow grazing until it reaches a stage of progress when, with all four feet on the ground, the right legs incline forward from their base and the left legs incline backward, the direction usually being from left to right. This phase of the walk was used by the Egyptians for asses, oxen, jackals, porcupines, and other animals, in endless repetition, in their manuscripts and decorative paintings, and in the carvings on their temples and sarcophagi. The common Egyptian interpretation of the walk is represented by the photograph of the ass, Plate 90, phase 1.

Although in Egyptian art the horse is far less skilfully drawn than are other animals, the expression given to his walk is correct; the phase usually adopted resembles that of phase 2, illustration 1. Whether the Assyrians derived their art inspiration from the Egyptians, the Egyptians from the Chaldaeans, or whether they were all originally taught by a race of whom we have no remains or tradition, will probably never be determined. It is evident that there was much communication between the people of the second Assyrian empire and the Egyptians. There are strong points of resemblance in their interpretations of animal movements; the bent knee in the walk of the former, however, is not usually found on the Nile, except in illustrations of the horse.

In Hamilton's "Early Greek Vases" appears a design of Diomedes and Ulysses, presenting to Nestor the horses of Rhesus; the horses are apparently copied from some Egyptian design.

In the perfection of their work, some of the later Greeks were inclined to represent the walk more, perhaps, as they thought it ought to be than as it really is.

On the arch of Titus; the column of Trajan, and in many of their statues, the Romans seem to have been indifferent to their interpretation of this action.

A certain phase of the trot has been very generally used by painters and sculptors of the horse to represent the action of walking. It is frequently difficult, both in ancient and modern art, to determine whether it is the intention of the designer to indicate a trot of ten miles an hour or a walk of one-third of that speed.

The statue of Marcus Aurelius, at Rome, is a remarkable instance of the failure of a sculptor to express his obvious intention. The pose of the emporer, and other circumstances, point to a deliberate motion of the horse, which is not confirmed by its method of progress.

Many of the equestrian statues of Europe and America are, virtually, reproductions of Marcus Aurelius, and represent the legs of the animal performing a lively trot of eight or ten miles an hour, while the rider sits with as calm a repose as if taking part in a solemn procession. Phase 1 of Plate 39 very closely reproduces the phase of motion, selected by the sculptor, for the horse on which the Roman emperor is seated.

This apparent indifference, or lack of discrimination by the artist, was shown in the reliefs on the column of Theodosius, erected at Constantinople in the fourth century. Two heavily-laden pack-horses in a procession, one immediately in front of the other, are represented, the one trotting, the other walking; many other animals, oxen, camels, elephants, etc., are intended to be represented walking, to some of which the artist gave a correct interpretation, to others, an erroneous one; the greater number, however, were strictly correct.

The bronze horses over the portals of St. Mark's at Venice, are fine examples of a careful study of natural action.

Of the great masters of the fifteenth and two succeeding centuries, Donatello and Verrocchio are the most pronounced in their complete understanding of this movement, as their respective statues at Padua and Venice afford ample proof. Albert Durer, in "The Knight, Death and the Devil," leaves a singular momento of his carelessness in giving effect to his avowed intention. One of the greatest Austrian artists of this century, in companion pictures, each of a procession in which women and children are taking part, has the central figure of one picture on a horse walking, of the other, on one trotting.

A celebrated animal painter of France, in a picture so meritorious as to be considered worthy of a place in the national collection, depicts several oxen yoked to a plough; from the vigorous efforts of the driver to goad them on, they are supposed to be making very slow progress; but one, only, of the animals is walking; the others, with probably the same inclination, are moving with a variety of gaits.

Error in the interpretation of the quadrupedal walk had become so predominant, that when Meissonier exhibited his picture of "1814," he was much ridiculed by the artists and critics of Paris for having–as they supposed–misrepresented that action. In 1881 the great painter assembled his colleagues of the Academy in his studio for the purpose of convincing them, as he himself announced on the occasion, that "the Sun had now been invoked to prove the truth of Meiasonier's impression." It is unnecessary to point out the phase selected by the artist for the leading horse of his picture.

The "Roll Call" affords another well-known example–to the astonishment of the critics at the time–of a careful study of the walk.


THE amble is a development of the walk into a mode of progress from which a higher rate of speed may be obtained. Practically, it is an accelerated walk; it has the same sequence of foot-impacts, but from their more rapid succession, a hind-foot and a fore-foot are alternately lifted from the ground in advance of its following foot being placed thereon.

This procedure results in throwing the duty of support alternately on one foot and on two feet. A hind-foot and a fore-foot successively furnish the single support; diagonals and laterals alternate in supplying the duplex support.

Illustration 6 demonstrates how this movement is consummated.

In 1 the support devolves on [??] [??] with–as in the walk–[??][??] suspended between them. In 3 [??] is lifted in advance of being landed, which is, however, on the ground in 4, where [??] [??] jointly sustain the weight of the body; the bent knee of [??] indicates that will soon have to perform its labours alone, as it is doing in 5; [??] soon comes to its assistance, and in 6 the left laterals assume the responsibility which in 1 devolved on the right laterals. One-half of the stride is now completed, and so far all has gone as it should; had the remaining moiety been executed with similar precision, there would have been no fault to find. In Pennsylvania, ambling horses are not so abundant as they are in Kentucky, California, and some other countries; the only horse capable of ambling, and obtainable, was the one here represented, who neglected to use his legs in the orthodox manner during the second half of the stride.

The six consecutive phases used as an illustration of this gait may, however, be accepted as perfectly characteristic of the complete movement, which may be recorded in the diagram as in figure 11.

This motion is perhaps better scientifically demonstrated in illustration 7, which represents a complete stride by a first-class ambling horse, photographed at Palo Alto during the summer of 1879. The horse not having been of a suitable colour for the background, the outlines were carefully filled in to give the figure more distinctness, and a dot added to distinguish the right feet from the left. The stride is somewhat more than completed in phase 11. No record of the speed was taken, but it probably was about seven miles an hour.

Plate 112 illustrates twenty-four phases of one nearly completed stride of an elephant while progressing at as fast a speed as vigorous persuasion could induce–equivalent to a mile in somewhat less than seven minutes.

The gait resorted to was the amble. In phase 10 the weight of the body devolves on [??] 12 demonstrates the assistance rendered by ; the bend of the knee in 14, which is more pronounced in 15, determines [??] to be practically furnishing exclusive support for a brief period, which function is shared by during several following phases. In 21 [??] assumes the entire responsibility until 23, when the animal is again fairly on the diagonals.

The diagram of the stride of a horse is equally applicable to one by the elephant.

The walk and the amble are probably the only two gaits used by the elephant in his natural state. Oriental paintings and carvings may not be very trustworthy sources of information, but so far as they have been examined by the author, they corroborate this supposition.

It is very remarkable that, although the amble is the most comfortable to the rider, of all the gaits which are natural to the horse, or to which he has been trained, it is now, in Great Britain, either entirely unknown, or has lapsed into disfavour. It is perhaps more remarkable that many writers on the horse and horsemanship should have confused this delightful, easy motion with that disagreeable jolting gait, appropriately termed the rack, or, as it is ambiguously called by some horsemen, "the pace."


Excerpted from IN MOTION by EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE, LEWIS S. BROWN. Copyright © 1957 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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