Galloping Elk (all images from Eadweard Muybridge’s “Descriptive Zoopraxography, or the Science of Animal Locomotion made Popular,” animations via Wikimedia)
The 19th century photographs by Eadweard Muybridge captured something that had previously been too fleeting for the human eye: the mechanics of animal locomotion.
In his 1893 book Descriptive Zoopraxography, or the Science of Animal Locomotion made Popular, Muybridge described his most famous animal locomotion capture of a horse. The series of photographs aimed to settle a dispute over ”the possibility of a horse having all of his feet free of contact with the ground at the same instant, while trotting, even at a high rate of speed.” The photographs revealed conclusively for the first time that a horse’s feet do indeed leave the ground all at once while in full gallop, the horse pulling its legs briefly underneath itself before sprinting forward.
Muybridge’s animal locomotion studies were a great success and he traveled around showing the horse and other creatures in motion through his “zoopaxiscope” that brought the series of frozen images to life in a sort of early stop motion movie projector. Collected in the Descriptive Zoopraxography book are some of these images, which were traced from his original photogravures. While you might not have a zoopaxiscope handy to reanimate the animals, we do have the magic of animated GIFs.
View more of Muybridge’s animated images here.