All the Gaits of Horses

Source: ‘All the Gaits of Horses’, The Sun [New York], 18 November 1882, p. 1

Text: ALL THE GAITS OF HORSES

SHOWN IN MOVING PICTURES BY THE ZOOPRAXISCOPE

Motions that Artists’s Eyes Have Failed to Follow – The Exact Difference Between Ambling, Pacing, Trotting, and Galloping.

Professor Eadweard Muybridge delivered last evening, in the Turf Club Theatre, an exceedingly interesting lecture upon the attitudes of animals in motion, illustrating it by photographs made by instantaneous process and by a machine called the Zoöpraxiscope which caused animals and human beings to appear in actual motion upon the screen in a startingly lifelike manner. He explained first the ingenious apparatus by which those pictures were made – a series of twenty-four cameras each fitted with an electro-exposer that exposed the negative to the light for one five-thousandth of a second when an animal in motion before it broke a thread and made the electric connection.

The series of pictures thus produced represented every movement of any animal for the observation of which this apparatus was employed and revolutionized the old ideas of the motions of quadrupeds in their several gaits, especially of those of horses. It had been a matter of dispute whether the horse ever had three feet on the ground at one time when walking. These pictures settled that. He always has two feet on the ground and part of the time three, the two feet being alternately diagonals and laterals.

Wherever a walking horse is supported on two feet and the suspended feet are inside, the suspended feet are invariably on the same side; where he is supported on two extended feet the suspended feet inside are diagonals. If a horse drops the left hind foot on the ground the next to follow will be the left fore foot, followed by the right hind and finally by the right fore.

Egyptian, Assyrian and Roman pictures were shown to demonstrate that an erroneous idea of this motion prevailed in the earliest attempts at art. It was perpetuated in the famous statue of Marcus Aurelius, which has been the model of almost all equestrian statues to the present day, and is as conspicuous in the equestrian statues of Washington, in Boston and in Union Square as in any of the old Egyptian or Assyrian pictures. It is not possible for a horse to walk in the way there depicted. Meissonier had a correct idea of a horse’s walk when he painted his great picture of Napoleon in 1814 but the critics ridiculed it and pronounced it incorrect. Now he has the satisfaction of knowing that he was right and they were all wrong. Miss Thompson also was correct and the critics derided her for being so. Now the laugh is on the other side.

A dozen pictures were next shown illustrative of a horse ambling, a gait in which he is never altogether clear of the ground, but is supported alternately by one and two feet, the single foot being alternately a fore and a hind foot, and the two foot alternately laterals and diagonals. This was best understood when actually represented by the zoöpraxiscope and the demonstration was so perfect as to elicit great applause from the spectators.

The racking or pacing gait was next amply illustrated. In it the horse moves the lateral foot simultaneously instead of the diagonal foot as in the trot. Then the trot was shown in an exhaustive series of photographs covering every movement of a trotting horse both at a slow and a fast trot. In the latter the horse was, at one point, in his stride entirely off the ground, the right fore and hind feet quite clear and others not quite touching. In a fast trot time the horse invariably puts the heel down first, never the ball of the foot or toe.

By an ingenious arrangement of five cameras five pictures were successfully made simultaneously from different points of view, for artists’ use, of horses in the several attitudes of motion and several of these foreshortened animals, when thrown upon the screen, were astonishingly comic however true to nature they unquestionably were.

The canter was next shown in which during a portion of his stride the horse has three feet on the ground and the fourth almost touching it. Then the gallop was illustrated. A fast horse going rapidly, Mr. Muybridge said, will be in the air three times in a single stride, he believed, but this was only his conjecture arguing from the illustrations he had obtained.

The lecturer reverted again to ancient history showing the old Egyptian and Assyrian models of the running horse – models blindly followed by artists ever since – in which the animal is presented poising himself on both hind feet extended far behind with his fore feet stretched far out ahead of him together. The North American Indians had a much more correct idea of the motion of a horse as was demonstrated by their rude pictures upon a buffalo robe that Lafayette bought when in this country and took back with him to Paris.

The horse as he appears in jumping was the subject of the final series of horse pictures, and afforded some of the most surprising and brilliant effects of the zoöpraxiscope. In response to a question of an auditor as to whether the horse, in jumping, got his power from his hind legs, the lecturer replied that he undoubtedly did, that he raised the front part of his body with his fore legs and took his spring from his hind legs. In speaking of horses jumping he said that the horse of which some of these pictures were made had risen 15 feet in front of a 3 ft. 6 in. hurdle, cleared it, and alighted 11 feet beyond it. In alighting from a jump the horse always lands first on his fore feet, with them 36 or 40 inches apart.

Following these pictures were a long series of illustrations of the various gaits of oxen, a wild bull, Newfoundland dog, hound, deer, goat and hog. In speaking the motions of the ox, Mr. Muybridge criticised Rosa Bonheur sharply, pointing out that in her picture of three yokes of draught oxen laboring, she misssed the natural movements of the beasts. The goat runs like a horse and the deer like the hound, bounding rather than running. In one part of the deer’s stride its attitude was very near to that which artists have so long inaccurately made as that of the running horse.

Then there were many more instantaneous photographs of Hazaek walking, and running, and jumping; of athletes boxing, turning plain somersaults and twisting somersaults. “Hazael was very much astonished at the various attitudes in which he had unconsciously placed himself when jumping,” remarked the lecturer. “And I should think he would be,” responded a voice from among the audience in the darkness in a tone of conviction that set everybody laughing. The pictures that astonished Hazael certainly did show him in a wondrous series of twists.

Photographs of pigeons and sea gulls in flight, beautiful pictures, with the birds in an infinite variety of positions upon an exquisite background of clouds concluded the exhibition. Remarking upon them, the lecturer pointed out birds that at the moment of being photographed had their wings down below their bodies, and said that but two peoples had over pictured birds in that natural position, the Egyptians and the Japanese.

Comments: Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) was a British photographer whose developments in instantaneous sequence photography, most famously of horses galloping, led the way to motion pictures. Muybridge was able to show his photographic sequences in motion by use of his invention, the Zoöpraxiscope. This projected silhouette images based on the photographs from a rotating glass disc. In effect the result was a proto-animation derived from the original photographs. Muybridge lectured extensively with the Zoöpraxiscope in Europe and America from 1880 onwards. Jean-Ernest Louis Meissonier and Rosa Bonheur were French artists. George Hazael was a renowned British athlete who settled in America.

Links: Copy at Chronicling America

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