Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford


  • Daniel SchmittEmail author
  • Laura Gruss
  • Angel Zeininger
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1456-1


A type of walking and running gait in which the two hind limbs support the entire body weight. Bipedalism involves an erect (nonsprawling) posture and a striding (sequenced between right and left) footfall pattern. Bipedalism is used by birds, fast running reptiles, primates, and, in its obligate form, humans and our fossil hominin ancestors.

Bipedalism: An Unusual Locomotor Form

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the revolutionary animals who overthrew their human masters famously wrote out a sign that said “Four legs good, two legs bad.” They had identified the singular defining character that separated them from their oppressors. They were right: bipedalism defines our species and the large group of fossil human ancestors that we call hominins.

Defining bipedalism seems like an easy task at first. Humans (and birds) use two legs for walking (a gait in which there is always at least one foot on the ground and footfalls alternate between right and left sides) and running...


Locomotion Morphology Gait Hominid Ontogeny Fossil record Adaptation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary AnthropologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyRadford UniversityRadfordUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Khalil Iskarous
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA