Higher weight support on the hind limb than forelimb is among the distinctive characteristics of primate quadrupeds. Although often assumed to be due to a more posteriorly positioned whole body center of mass, there are little data to support such a difference. Reynolds (1985. Am J Phys Anthropol 67:335–349) notes that the distribution of forces on the limbs can also be influenced by average limb posture, but suggests that this effect is too small to account for the asymmetry in weight support observed in primates. Instead, he proposes that high hind limb forces are brought about by an active process of shifting weight off the forelimbs and onto the hind limbs through use of hind limb retractors. In this study, we use video records of walking animals to explore the degree to which average limb posture in primates and other quadrupedal mammals deviates from vertical, and use electromyography to test Reynolds' model of hind limb retractor activity and posterior weight shift. The limb posture results indicate that primate forelimbs oscillate about a vertical or slightly retracted axis, and though the hind limbs are slightly protracted, the magnitude of deviation from vertical is too small to have a major effect on weight support distribution. The electromyographic results reveal higher levels of hip extensor activity in antipronograde primates that bear a higher proportion of weight on their hind limbs. This lends support to Reynolds' suggestion that some primates use muscles to actively shift weight onto hind limbs to relieve stresses on forelimbs less well structured for weight support. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.