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J Exp Biol. 2000 Jan;203(Pt 2):221-7.

Time of contact and step length: the effect of limb length, running speed, load carrying and incline.

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Equine Research Center and Department of Biological Sciences and Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA 91768, USA.


Using published values for twelve species of birds and mammals, we investigated the effects of limb length and running speed on time of contact and step length. In addition, we measured the time of contact in horses trotting up a 10 % incline and when carrying a load averaging 19 % of their body mass. From these values, we calculated stride period and step length. Our analysis of the interspecific data yielded the following relationship between time of contact (t(c) in s) and leg length (L in m) and running speed (v in m s(-)(1)): t(c)=0.80L(0.84)/v(0.87) (r(2)=0.97). Both exponents in this relationship are significantly different from 1.0, indicating that step length increases with speed and that small species use a step length that, relative to their leg length, is longer than the relative step length used by larger species. Time of contact increased when a horse carried a load but not when it trotted up an incline.

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