Charging Elephants `Run Just like Groucho Marx'

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 3, 2003 | Go to article overview

Charging Elephants `Run Just like Groucho Marx'


A CHARGING elephant is no joke - unless you are a big fan of the comic Marx Brothers, scientists revealed yest erday.

Researchers have discovered that speeding elephants ``run'' like Groucho Marx.

They seem to walk very fast with their limbs slightly bent to aid the smooth movement of their bodies.

Biochemists have named this gait ``Groucho running'' after the ridiculous, crouched walk of the cigar-toting moustachioed comic.

Until now no-one has been sure whether, technically, elephants run at all.

Even at fast speeds, they do not appear to be running. Their footfall pattern remains the same as that of walking, and at no point do all four feet ever leave the ground at once. At the same time it seems that an elephant's centre of mass bounces at high speed.

If this turns out to be true, a charging elephant's gait meets the biomechanical definition of running.

Dr John Hutchinson from Stanford University in California, USA, who led a new study of running elephants, said yesterday, ``We do find evidence that elephants run in a sense.

``It's an intermediate sort of gait, but it looks like what we biomechanically call running. …

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