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All About Resting Positions Of Animals

Updated on October 22, 2011

Zoologists have given name to more than 1.5 million species of animals and every year thousands more are added to the list. Yet some evolutions believe that presently named species make up to less than 20 per cent of all living animals and less than one per cent of all those that have existed in the past.

By observing animals we get to know that they have a great capacity for learning; can perform mental tasks which humans are unable to do. Their response to eating, drinking and mating is exclusive. They even restore energy by taking rest. The internal mechanism includes the nervous system and the endocrine system to regulate animal behaviour. These systems receive information from the external environment via sensory organs which processes that information involving the brain and the endocrine glands, and initiate responses in terms of motor patterns or changes in the operations of internal organs.

Animal Rest

‘Rest' is a must for animals and they sleep at intervals in order to renovate their energy. Interestingly, to observe they seem to have various poses and positions in sleeping particularly to secure the most vital relaxation. Even fishes appear to sleep; at any rate, many of them go into a quiescent state of semi consciousness, which, in their case, amounts to the same thing. Reptiles, too, spend much of their lives in a kind of trancelike slumber. Even the snakes, whose eyes cannot close, because they are lidless, sink into lethargy under the effect of cold or a heavy meal.

Needless to say, most animals in death or in moments of sever exhaustion are in a prone position, lying flat upon the side with neck and legs extended or drawn up close to the body. But under normal conditions this extreme pose is a rarity. The animal will usually drop to the ground in a characteristic manner, the limbs being arranged in such a way as to enable the recumbent creature to rise with the greatest facility.

Fortunately, our domestic animals will give us invaluable hints as to many of these positions, especially as most of them have lost fear from man and therefore conduct themselves naturally in his presence. In addition, the fact that the principal domesticated species represent several very important families of wild animals renders them doubly useful in field of animal behaviour. For instance, the common house cat is an excellent example of all the feline race-lions, tigers, etc. The horse gives us an idea of the zebra and wild asses. Dogs resemble closely the wolves, jackals, and foxes and the cow serves as a representative of the bison, buffalo, yak, zebu, and other bovine forms. Naturally, in these various types there will be many minor changes in proportion, size, coloration, etc., but the basic principles of the muscles and the shape and action of the bones serves as a most needful guide in any study we may wish to pursue.

Description Of Some Animal's Rest Poses

Undoubtedly, in the grace, variety and ease of their movements, no other race of animals quite compares with the cats. Even action is replete with a sinuous agility as well as a sense of controlled power. In many resting positions, one always feels these peculiar qualities, as well as their ability to ease, with which they sink into a profound sleep. So powerful are the muscles of a cat as compared to the weight of its bony frame in all attitudes, no matter how complicated, they assume with a perfect ease.

However, our temperamental house cat and all its tribe can and will place themselves in a number of different and equally characteristic poses, lying on the back, lying curled in a ball, flat on the side, or twisted half to one side with the hip and hind legs prone upon the ground.

The house cat is a good example to observe the cuddly positions, but the long hair, loose skin, and small size render them difficult to distinguish. They are much more clearly visible in a large, heavily boned, short haired animal, such as a lioness or puma. The very characteristic profile of the back line, which in the cats is at the highest point about midway between the back of the shoulder blades and the forward point of the pelvis, must also be noted.

The pelvis itself is sloped at a downward angle of about forty-five degrees from front to back, and the knees topping the upraised end of the femur are raised almost to the back line. From this point the hind leg (tibia and fibula) descends more or less vertically to the heel, which rests firmly upon the ground and then extends forward to the tips of the toes. All in all the carriage of the creature is formal and statuesque and combines feline grace and power to a remarkable degree.

Now that the bony arrangement of the reclining position in the cats has been briefly described, it will pay us to see what happens to the muscular structure under the same conditions. The heavily muscled neck nested deeply between the shoulder blades is barely evident, except at the top where it joins the skull, but the shoulder muscles are very prominent and the planes of the form distinctly evident. The spine, or ridge down the middle of the scapula, will be indicated by a depression in a well nourished animal, the bulging muscles at either side, sinking it into a groove, but the shape of the ridge of the shoulder blade will still be clearly seen. Strongly marked muscular bulges (the deltoid) join the base of this blade to the upper leg and merge with the form of that portion of the limb.

Also descending from the back of the large, more or less flattened shoulder we see the great triceps muscles, connecting that region with the elbow. The foreleg is not unlike our own forearm, rounded, solid, with long rope like muscles extending from the elbow to the wrist. On the side of the lioness, just behind the forelimb, the serratus muscles may be seen, several small, pointed muscles on and between the ribs, which extend rounding, backward, toward the upraised knee joint of the hind limb. A certain space, however, does occur between the rear line of the ribs and the knee; the upper part is filled by the heavily rounded, horizontal back muscle, along the side of the vertebrae, and below that a softly outlined depression extending downward to the animal's belly line. All described points of resting poses found equally applicable to all the members of the cat family. As a matter of fact, one might almost duplicate this description to include members of the canine race-dogs, wolves, jackals, foxes- with the difference that the high point of the back is considerably nearer to the pelvis than in the feline group.

When it comes to horses, asses and zebras a somewhat modified story will be necessary, owing to the greater length and stiffness of the limbs as compared with those of the flesh eaters. All the equine stock reclines in what appears to be a somewhat awkward and constrained position, in marked contrast to the supple, graceful attitudes of the cats. The horse never lies down with the limbs disposed symmetrically, but in a sideways twisted position as regards the hips and hinder pair of limbs.

This pose causes the weight to be carried on the under hip and thigh while the foot on that side from the heel to the toe lies flat upon the ground, protruding sideways beneath the animal's belly. One foreleg is always doubled back at the wrist joint (the horseman always insists on incorrectly referring to this as a knee), the other foreleg projecting stiffly forward in a more or less bent position. The act of lying down is performed in a peculiar way. The animal first drops sideways on its haunches, and then the forward limbs are allowed to bend slowly until the torso rests upon the ground. In rising the action is reversed.

The forelimbs are gathered with difficulty beneath the creature's body and then straightened, raising the fore part clear of the ground; this is followed by a tremendous heave of the hind limbs, pushing the haunches upward until the animal regains its feet. The entire action is laborious. Sometimes a weak or exhausted horse cannot get up at all, so great is the effort required. Fortunately, however, the equines as a race are quite capable of standing for hours, dozing as they rest upon three legs, first bending one and then the other of the hinder pair at the heel and at same time resting lightly upon the downward-pointed toe. Indeed, some horses, especially in a stall, will almost never lie down, preferring to sleep standing with drooping head and muscles relaxed but quite rested and comfortable upon their post like legs.

Many species of the cattle, sheep, goats and deer perform the lying down operation in an opposite sequence to that found among the horses. They sink first on the wrist joints of the forelegs, then collapse slowly upon the hinder pair of legs. When rising, they first stand upon the hinder pair, then struggle to the knees (wrists) of the forelegs, finally acquiring the upright pose. The action, however, is apparently more easily accomplished than, by the equine stock, whose long legs seem a trouble in their way under these conditions.

Unique Resting Pose Of Elephant

Furthermore, elephants are unique in their reclining pose. To begin with, the elephant kneels upon his true knees, that is, the first joint of the leg below the hip, but when down (owing to a very unusual feature of the creature's anatomy ) the entire lower limb, from the knee to the heel and toes, projects straight backward along the ground. This peculiar action is caused by the fact that the hind feet of the elephant are very short; so that they cannot bend forward again at the heel as other animals.

This is a very strange way of bending the hind limb and must be studied carefully or it will be found confusing. The forelimbs are disposed in a manner unlike those of other mammals and the almost vertical shoulder blades are a departure from the average position. The massive forelegs projects forward from the ground-touching elbow to the wrist, which is slightly raised, the foot being bent down again, so that the sole is flat upon the earth. The ponderous head is held at about the same angle as in the standing pose. The whole appearance of the great creature is dignified, sculpture like, and highly individual, unlike anything else in the realm of animal life.

It may easily be gleaned from the foregoing, how many things are to be looked for and appreciated if we are even roughly to understand the movements, form and character of any given species of animals. The closer study of the splendid creatures of the plains and forest can only fill us with enthusiasm and zest for a still greater knowledge concerning all living things, with their application in art and science in the multiple phases.


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