All the Gaits of Horses

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



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

Electrical Wonders


The Electrical Schnellesher (from

Source: ‘Electrical Wonders’, The Daily News (London), 20 December 1892, p. 2

Text: Between five and six years ago Herr Anschütz, the scientific photographer of Berlin, showed the Crown Prince a certain picture of figures in motion. Besides the Crown Prince, there were present the King of Saxony and one or two German princes. What the Crown Prince saw, or thought he saw, was a drawing – painting – or photograph, the subject of which, instead of being in an overlastingly fixed attitude, was in active bodily motion. A spectator without an inkling of a knowledge of optics or photography or any science whatever would have been as much surprised at Herr Anschütz’s picture as he would have been at Mr. Gladstone’s in the National Liberal Club – supposing he had seen the latter raise its hand as if in the act of speaking, turn its head sharply, as if in rebuke of somebody, then sit down, cross its legs, lean forward, and turn its palm into an ear trumpet, in the attitude of listening to the next orator. ‘Herr Anschütz’, said the Crown Prince, “it is well for you that you were not born three centuries ago, for you would have been taken up as a sorcerer and burnt.’ And yet the whole thing is as plain as A B C. It was this same Herr Anschütz who some time ago took a photograph of a cannon ball at each of three separate points in its swift invisible flight. Herr Anschütz’s ‘Electrical Wonder’ has just been sent from Berlin to No. 425, Strand. Twelve pictures are ready. Eighteen or twenty more will be ready in a short time. It is the intention of the Wonder Company to take pictures of ‘local objects’. Science, rank, and fashion were pretty well represented at the opening day, yesterday, between the hours of eleven and three.

A picture in the Anschütz collection is one and indivisible only in the spectator’s consciousness. It is the resultant of twenty-five separate pictures, each of which differs slightly in attitude, &c., from its predecessor. If all the twenty-five pictures are passed before the eye, say in three-quarters of a second, none of them leaves a conscious impression of itself upon the observer’s mind. Each picture has only the thirtieth part of a second to do it in; in unscientific phraseology, the pace is to fast for the response of consciousness. What does happen in the short space of three-quarters of a second is the merging of the twenty-five separate pictures into one picture – a picture in which the person, or animal, or group is seen in motion. The idea has been familiarised on the much humbler scale of the toymaker in what is commonly called the zoetrope, or wheel of life. In its more scientific aspect it has been used in the thaumatrope and the phenakistoscope, which depend for their effect on the persistence of vision. Let us take, for an example, the picture of the huntsman leaping a brook. Twenty-five pictures were taken when the horse was in the act, and they were taken in less than a second. The first picture suppose showed the horse when about to spring, the second when the hind feet were leaving the ground, the thirteenth when the horse had just turned the point of its highest distance, and so on by minute gradations, until the twenty-fifth and last picture, when the horse was again on terra firma. Between one pictorial attitude and the next there intervened less than the twenty-fifth part of a second. The interval was too short for the eye to individualise any one attitude. If, then, these twenty-five separate pictures were arranged, consecutively, say on a revolving disc, and flashed one after the other upon the spectator’s eye within the second of time, the result would be a single picture – single image – of the entire act of leaping across a brook. That is what happens with the aid of the electric spark in each of the peep-show like boxes in 425 Strand.

You are looking at what might be an illustrated page in a book, but the action in this magical illustration is a continuous one. The effect is no less beautiful than wonderful. On the bluish page, as it seems to be, a page which might be fitted into an octavo volume, the picture develops itself from beginning to end. The sand is thrown up by the horse’s heels and falls down again. The horse’s tail and mane wave. His bitted mouth opens. Even his muscular contractions are visible; and the straining of the neck, the distension of the eager nostrils, the drawing up, bending and outstretching of the limbs. The huntsman’s coat-tails flap. Woodcuts and coloured plates in the books used by mortal men do bot behave in that singular fashion. But in No. 425, Strand, we are in the miracle shop of Herr Anschütz, the natural-supernaturalist. ‘I see a picture of life-in-movement’ says Consciousness. ‘It is all maya-illusion’, says Science, ‘the reality, the twenty-five pictures, you do not see; what you do see is a phantom born of them.’ And so with the octavo-sized picture of two girls dancing. If a Graphic artist draws two girls dancing in Drury Lane, he fixed them at a particular moment, in a particular attitude for ever and ever. But in Herr Anschütz’s picture, the girls trip on their light fantastic toes, they wave their arms, their dresses flutter into everchanging folds. The picture is, let us call it, the composite ghost of 25 real pictures each representing an attitude, or fraction of an attitude, in the total movement; and all electrically flashed in succession before the eye in about a second of time. And so again, with the picture of the boys at drill; of the lady riding at a slow, easy trot; of the athletes vaulting and flying head over heels; of the ‘professor’ making his dog take a six foot jump over a cane; of the boxing match; of the squad of Uhlans. It is as if the engravings on our octavo pages become alive and move like their prototypes in the flesh. The boys march in the stiff-legged Prussian fashion. The mounted lady trots most gracefully. Her horse is a fine stepper. The fellows in the Row would be sure to stare at her through their eyeglasses. In their octavo picture the athletes bound off their spring boards, and turn head over heels, as nicely as any young men do in any London gymnasium.

Perhaps the most amusing picture is that of the two boxers. You can watch the play of their bicepital muscles, heels, toes, legs, while they do their best to let each other’s ‘claret’ out. But the prettiest picture of all is the Uhlan squad — a wonderful little picture of the confused, twinkling swing of horse’s legs, the waving of manes and tails, the flutter of the pennons on the gently swaying lances, the steady, alert figures of the riders. In or about a second’s time 25 successive pictures were taken of a Uhlan squad in motion, each picture representing the attitudes of the whole during a particular fraction of a second. By flashing in equally rapid succession the twenty-five pictures before the observer’s eye, the image of the original squad is created. In size, as in other respects, the Anschütz is an astonishing apparatus. It contains twenty-five lenses. Four men on horseback may easily find room inside it. ‘What did this astonishing camera cost the Herr Anschütz?’ we asked. ‘£30,000.’

Comments: Ottomar Anschütz (1846-1907) was a German photographer whose various devices with sequential images on a cylinder or disc that showed fleeting motion sequences anticipated cinema. His coin-operated Electrical Schnellesher, or Electrical Wonder (which showed (24, not 25, images shown in a second), was exhibited in London from 19 December 1892. My thanks to Deac Rossell for bringing this article to my attention.