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Are fast-moving elephants really running?

Despite their unseemly bulk, elephants can hit high speeds — but use an unusual style.


It is generally thought that elephants do not run1,2,3,4,5, but there is confusion about how fast they can move across open terrain and what gait they use at top speed. Here we use video analysis to show that Asian elephants (Elephas maximus L.) can move at surprisingly high speeds of up to 6.8 m s−1 (25 km h−1) and that, although their gait might seem to be a walk even at this speed, some features of their locomotion conform to definitions of running.

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Figure 1


Figure 2: Biomechanics of rapid movement by Asian elephants (Elephas maximus L.).

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Correspondence to John R. Hutchinson.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Hutchinson, J., Famini, D., Lair, R. et al. Are fast-moving elephants really running?. Nature 422, 493–494 (2003).

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