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No force limit on greyhound sprint speed

Unlike human athletes, these dogs do not need to slow down when racing round a tight bend.


Dogged approach: greyhounds pound the ground around a bend.

Maximum running speed is constrained by the speed at which the limbs can be swung forwards and backwards, and by the force they can withstand while in contact with the ground. Humans sprinting around banked bends change the duration of foot contact to spread the time over which the load is applied, thereby keeping the force on their legs constant1. We show here that, on entering a tight bend, greyhounds do not change their foot-contact timings, and so have to withstand a 65% increase in limb forces. This supports the idea that greyhounds power locomotion by torque about the hips, so — just as in cycling humans — the muscles that provide the power are mechanically divorced from the structures that support weight.

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Figure 1: Mechanics of bend-running in greyhounds.


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Correspondence to James R. Usherwood.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary information (DOC 32 kb)

Supplementary movie 1 'bend'

Head-on view of three greyhounds at the end of the first bend. The mechanical 'hare' can be seen in the foreground towards the end of the clip. Filmed at 500 frames per second, displayed at 1/50th speed. (QT 4768 kb)

Supplementary movie 2 'straight'

Side-on view of a greyhound at the start of the second straight. (QT 1626 kb)

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Usherwood, J., Wilson, A. No force limit on greyhound sprint speed. Nature 438, 753–754 (2005).

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