Page last updated at 05:00 GMT, Friday, 12 February 2010

Do speedy elephants walk or run?


With their awkward, lumbering gait, elephants moving at high speed are not the most graceful of animals - but are they walking or running?

Now scientists believe they have an answer: new research confirms that they do both - at the same time.

By observing elephants moving across a hi-tech track, the team found the hefty creatures run with their front legs but walk with their back legs.

The Asian elephants, from a Thai conservation centre, were encouraged to move across the track, at speed, by their keepers - or mahouts - who rode on their backs.

(The elephants, which were rescued from the forest industry, are paired with their mahouts for life.)

The fastest elephant, shown here with footage from high-speed cameras, reached 18km per hour (11mph).

The research is published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

(Footage: Catholic University of Louvain)


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