Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Robert Dale


It is commonly believed that elephants exhibit only one gait, a lateral sequence walk. However, recently there have been several interesting studies on the footfall patterns of adult African elephants (Loxodonta africana). Scientists have recognized that elephants actually exhibit two patterns of locomotion: a lateral sequence walk and an amble. The amble is a slight modification of the lateral sequence gait. The present study extends this work by examining the relationship between gait and speed in African elephant calves at the Indianapolis Zoo. I collected frame-by-frame observational video data from a newborn calf born at the Indianapolis Zoo across a six-month period (from the calf's birth, July 20, 2011, to February 3, 2012). I also analyzed samples of archived videotaped gaits of four other elephant calves born at the Indianapolis Zoo between 2000- 2006 and five adult elephants residing at the Indianapolis Zoo sometime during the period 1989-2012. Gait diagrams showed the existence of various gaits for African elephant calves moving on level ground: a lateral sequence walk, an amble, and a walking trot, the latter occurring only at the slowest speeds. This suggests that the trot occurs selectively to maintain static stability when an elephant calf is moving very slowly, especially when the calf is unsteady on its feet. However, the adult elephants only exhibited two gaits on level ground, a lateral sequence walk and an amble. When comparing all the elephants across a large age span (birth to 40 years), the duty factor increased with age for the lateral sequence gait, but decreased with age for the trot.