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  1. SirKibblers

    SirKibblers Member

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    Horse Legs and How They Work

    Discussion in 'Research' started by SirKibblers, Nov 18, 2017.

    I'm making two species of horse based off of the mythological horses sleipnir and helhest. My interpretations of them are probably a bit questionable in terms of their practicality, so I wanted to make sure that they were sound designs for their intended purpose, and at least able to be bent in anatomical science to some reasonable degree.

    Sleipnir - An eight-legged horse. Its legs are spread evenly among the side of its underbelly, effectively creating a wall of legs on each side of the body. In more detail: behind the forelegs is an identical pair of legs, and behind those, or in front of the hind legs, is another set of the same legs. The goal is increased traction and stability at the cost of speed, effectively creating a tank of a horse for a war mount (or maybe not, let me know if this is all wrong).

    Helhest - A three-legged horse. Its legs are arranged in a straight line through the length of the middle of its underbelly. In more detail: imagine a normally functioning leg that extends downward from the center of the horse's sternum, then two more legs of the same fashion behind it in a straight line. The goal is increased speed and turning, but decreased traction, stability, and braking. This effectively makes a motorcycle of a horse, able to turn on a dime and maintain its extreme speed (presumably, please tell me if it'll even be fast).
     
  2. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    I know these are two mythological horses, but.... wouldn’t the one with three legs just fall over?

    A horse’s body is quite round and exceptionally heavy, and I think three legs in a straight line down the middle - unless they were incredibly thick legs - would be too unstable. I see what you’re trying to do with the motorbike thing, but motorbikes have kickstands.

    Perhaps more of a “Reliant Robin” orientation? You should still be able to make the turning corners quicker thing make sense, but see what you think about that.

    It all depends how seriously you want them to be taken - I know myths are ridiculous sometimes (like that old Aztec one where the mother of 400 children gets impregnated by a cloud of feathers?) but depending on how you’re telling the story, the horse with three legs could be quite a laughable concept.

    Hope this helps somewhat,

    Piper
     
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  3. Caveriver

    Caveriver Active Member

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    Doable, I would think. Especially if the first four feet work like front legs, and the back four work like back legs. You would have to extend the length of his back quite a bit though, to keep the feet from stepping on each other. If you look at the tracks of a well-conformed (Earth) horse, the print of the back foot falls directly into the print of the front as he moves along. Think about the coordination of the legs required to do this, or google it, since it can be a bit of a brain twister. The only way this works is that the empty space provided by the length of the horse's back/belly allows for the leg's range of motion. If you are squeezing more legs into that space, they are going to need room to work too.
    As a side note, Avatar has six legged horses. That might be worth watching closely, to give yourself an idea of how things would work.

    I can't see this working... I agree with @The Piper... he would fall over with no kickstand. Again, the legs won't have room to function. Unless they are somehow offset, or rotated (in either of your examples) I don't see this critter going anywhere.
     
  4. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I'm having trouble with the three-leg idea, too. For the multiple legs I can think of insects that have similar setups, but I can't picture any real-world creatures with three legs arranged down the middle. I'm also not really sure how that setup would make the creatures turn more easily or move more quickly.

    I agree that you'll have to look at the pacing of your eight-legged horses - they might need to move all the legs on one side at once, (like a pacer in our world) or something.

    Honestly, though, I'd be inclined to go with leg length rather than number of legs. If you want a really stable horse, get the centre of gravity closer to the ground, and minimize the long, relatively delicate legs.

    For greater speed and manoeuvrability... damn, I don't know. Those two things have to be balanced off against each other in most animals I can think of. Cheetahs go super-fast but aren't great at turning, other animals can turn more quickly but don't go as fast.

    Maybe some sort of joint adjustment on the hind legs so they can pivot, like a ball socket? But honestly, watch a cutting horse work -- those guys are pretty damn fast and manoeuvrable already! (eg (ignore the hokie voice-over!)
     
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  5. Caveriver

    Caveriver Active Member

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    Which brings to mind their tail... in predators you more often see a long, muscular tail used for balance and for a rudder. The portion of a horse's tail that is meat and bone (called the dock) is only about a eighteen inches long (give or take, depending on the size of horse). Tails are more so used as an expression of body language and as a fancy fly swatter. Perhaps, if you were wanting to add speed, think about the structure of a cheetah's shoulders (free-moving shoulder blades with loads of motion), a predator-like meaty tail to be used as a rudder, and a light, cat-like skeleton (though, this would certainly compromise his ability to be ridden).
     
  6. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Maybe a prehensile tail that could wrap around things to turn on an axis? It'd have to be ridiculously strong, though, to affect the weight of a horse capable of carrying a human.

    Cutting horses apparently use their necks to help them turn... I wonder about a sort of front-wheel drive horse, with the big muscles in the front? But that'd compromise speed, I imagine.

    Hmmm...
     
  7. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with everybody else here. I think there are a couple of 'improvements' you could make to a horse, but three legs isn't one of them. Even the Reliant Robin idea isn't so hot. I was good friends with people who owned a dog with three legs (one in front), and I once owned a cat with three legs (one in back), and believe me, all they could do was hobble. The cat got along more fluently than the dog, but whether that was because of the difference in where the lost leg would have been, or whether it's the difference between a cat and a dog, I don't know.

    I think if you followed @BayView's idea and gave the horse's legs more of an ability to rotate, that might be good. Horses also can't see straight ahead of them, due to where their eyes are placed, so that's something else that might be improvable. Three eyes would make more sense to me than three legs. And yes, the tail could be made to do lots of things it doesn't do at the moment. You could maybe give them paws with claws on them, instead of hooves ...which would give them a bit more in the way of what they could grab on to. But I think three legs would be an evolutionary dead-end.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2017
  8. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    I like the eight-legged horse, though I'd suggest more ambition, perhaps utilise the centiporse of antiquity?

    upload_2017-11-18_14-3-34.jpeg 'Centiporse & Rider' - modern rendition
     
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  9. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Centiporse? No, rather have an Octoporse. Think of the shoes bill.
    octo.png
     
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  10. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    Of course, only a mad woman would shoe a hundred-legged horse. However, when I saw these beauties in the window I just had to rush in-store and negotiate, a fortune in shoe-laces, don't ask me how I tie my own shoe-laces, we'd be here all day.
    upload_2017-11-18_14-18-15.jpeg
     
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  11. SirKibblers

    SirKibblers Member

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    Wow I didn't think the helhest would be this bad xD. I'm gonna attempt once to save this idea by taking into account some things you guys have said. After that, if it doesn't work, I'll drop it (not worth it at that point). The idea for the motion behind the speed was: front leg hits ground first, then back leg for support and momentum, then the middle leg would hit the ground and kick off forward for a sort of leap with every gallop. For turning, it would be braking with the back leg, leaning with the front leg, then kicking off in the opposite direction with the middle leg. One important thing to note is that the horse was made by the undead, to be undead, and for use by the undead, so magic does play a part in it. To be honest, it goes beyond genetic engineering and would be more like mass-produced Frankenstein's monsters.

    I could make the legs a bit thicker for more support, as well as what some others were saying of cheetah-like tails and sleeker bodies. The kickstand solves itself though, as the horse is summoned, and only temporarily. The idea is to summon it as you are jumping, then mount it, ride for a bit, then dismount as it runs off while being desummoned. As for where it goes when it is desummoned, it kinda just dissipates. No storage, no parking; no kickstand, no problem. The helhest is less of a creature used as a mount, and more of a familiar used for a short burst of speed. It can also be imbued with elements and used as a sort of kamikaze weapon. For example: imprint an explosion rune on the helhest as it runs forward, then detonate it when it reaches its target. Also don't worry about animal cruelty stuff, they're basically just blobs of darkness with simple commands implemented into them.
     
  12. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I can't see the legs not getting tangled in each other.

    As was said upthread, real horses should "track up" - we hope their hind foot fall onto the same footprints their front legs just left. Some horses even over-track, where the hind foot lands even further forward than the spot the front foot just left. Now, this only really applies at the walk and trot... your guys would be galloping, I assume, but there still needs to be space for their legs to work.

    Skip the first minute or so, and then watch:



    Look at, for example, 1:09, with all the legs clustered so close together. I just can't see how there would be room for a third leg in there, not unless the horse's back was extended to the point that I feel like it would be wriggling around like a worm.
     
  13. SirKibblers

    SirKibblers Member

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    Damn that's frustrating, I really liked the concept, but now I can see how it just wouldn't work. I'll make something else for the helhest, but I'm dead set on making a motorcycle horse. How about two legs? If that doesn't work I'll have nowhere left to go. :(
     
  14. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I can't see why two legs would be faster than four legs, and if you look at the cutting horse video and the way the legs work, I think it's clear that two legs would make the animal way less manoeuvrable. I mean, even a motorcycle isn't good at lateral movement, right?

    Sorry.
     
  15. SirKibblers

    SirKibblers Member

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    It's okay, thank you for your patience and assistance, I'll let the idea sit for a few days then make a decision.
     

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