Fast locomotion of some African ungulates

Authors

  • R. McN. Alexander,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Pure and Applied Zoology, University of Leeds, England, and Department of Animal Physiology, University of Nairobi, P.O. Box 30197, Nairobi, Kenya
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  • V. A. Langman,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Pure and Applied Zoology, University of Leeds, England, and Department of Animal Physiology, University of Nairobi, P.O. Box 30197, Nairobi, Kenya
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  • A. S. Jayes

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Pure and Applied Zoology, University of Leeds, England, and Department of Animal Physiology, University of Nairobi, P.O. Box 30197, Nairobi, Kenya
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*The Leeds address applies to R. McN. A. and A. S. J., the Nairobi one to V. A. L. The fieldwork was carried out while R. McN. A. was an Inter-University Council Short-Term Visitor at the Nairobi address.

Abstract

Ten species of ungulate were filmed, galloping in their natural habitat. They ranged in size from Thomson's gazelle (about 20 kg) to giraffe (about 1000 kg). They were pursued to make them run as fast as possible. The films have been analysed to determine speed, stride frequency, stride and step lengths, and duty factors. The dependence of these quantities on body size is discussed.

Summary:

Fast locomotion of zebra, giraffe, warthog and seven species of Bovidae has been studied. The animals were filmed from a pursuing vehicle while galloping in their natural habitat.

Stride frequency was more closely correlated with limb length (represented by hip height) than with body mass. Mean stride frequency was proportional to (hip height)-0·51 and maximum stride frequency to (hip height) -0·63.

Maximum speed was between 10 and 14 m s -1 for all species except buffalo (7 m s -1). It was not significantly correlated with body mass.

Since the small species ran at least as fast as the large ones they attained higher Froude numbers. Relative stride length was approximately 1·8 (Froude number)0·39 for all species, irrespective of size. Relative step length was approximately 0·65 (Froude number)0·2, both for the fore feet and for the hind ones. The vertical forces exerted by the feet are proportional to (body weight)×(Froude number)0·2 so the forces at maximum speed are larger multiples of body weight for small species than for large ones.

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