Functional specialisation of the pelvic limb of the hare (Lepus europeus)


Sarah Williams, Structure and Motion Laboratory, The Royal Veteterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL9 7TA, UK. T: +44 (0)1707 666530; E:


We provide quantitative anatomical data on the muscle–tendon architecture of the hare pelvic limb (specifically muscle mass, fascicle length, pennation angle, tendon mass and length). In addition, moment arms of major pelvic limb muscles were measured. Maximum isometric force and power of muscles, the moment of force about a joint, and tendon stress and strain were estimated. Data are compared with published data for other cursorial mammals such as the horse and dog, and a non-specialised Lagamorph, the rabbit. The pelvic limb of the hare was found to contain substantial amounts of hip extensor and adductor/abductor muscle volume, which is likely to be required for power production and stability during rapid turning. A proximal to distal reduction in muscle volume and fascicle length was also observed, as is the case in other cursorial quadrupeds, along with a reduction in distal limb mass via the replacement of muscle volume by long distal limb tendons, capable of storing large amounts of elastic energy. The majority of hare pelvic limb muscle moment arms varied with joint position, giving the hare the capacity to vary muscle function with limb posture and presumably different locomotor activities.