Have you ever noticed that some animals seem to have really short legs compared to the size of their bodies? Animals like wombats, capybaras, dachshunds, corgis, weasels and skunks are known for having short, stubby legs. But why do these animals have such short legs, and how does it affect how they live their lives? In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some common short-legged animals and learn more about how their unique bodies help them survive. Getting down low to the ground with short legs can be an advantage in many ways!
Let’s start with the wombat. If you’ve seen a wombat before, you probably noticed its very short, stocky legs compared to its round, barrel-shaped body. Wombats are chunky, bear-like mammals that live in burrows and are found in Australia. Their legs are so short that their bellies nearly drag on the ground!
So why did wombats evolve to have such short legs? It’s all about being low to the ground. Wombats use their powerful legs and long claws to dig extensive burrow systems underground. Their short, compact legs allow them to move efficiently in their tunnels. And being so close to the ground gives them a low center of gravity, making it harder for predators to knock them over. Their short legs also help hold up their robust frames. A wombat can weigh anywhere from 20-35 kg, so they need strong, sturdy legs to support their hefty bodies.
Their short legs may be one reason wombats move relatively slowly above ground. But below ground in their tunnels, they can gallop surprisingly fast to escape threats! So don’t be fooled by their stubby legs – wombats are adept diggers and can move quickly when they need to. Their unique body shape with short legs is perfectly adapted for the wombat’s underground lifestyle.
Like the wombat, capybaras are semi-aquatic mammals with distinctly short and stocky legs compared to their large, barrel-shaped bodies. A capybara is the largest living rodent in the world, weighing up to 65 kg! But they still manage to get around on their small legs because capybaras spend a lot of time in the water.
Capybaras live in Central and South America in areas near water. They have webbed toes on their front feet to help them swim. Their short, sturdy legs act like paddles in the water. On land they can walk, run, and even jump surprisingly high with their strong back legs. But their stubby legs aren’t ideal for fast or lengthy movement on land.
The capybara’s short legs help them in the water in other ways too. Their eyes, ears, and nostrils are all near the top of their heads so they can stay submerged while keeping those senses above the water. They even have the ability to close their ears and nostrils underwater! Their short legs allow them to keep most of their bodies lowered in the water for hiding and cooling off in hot climates. Overall, the capybara’s compact legs and body are very useful adaptations for an amphibious lifestyle.
Unlike wombats and capybaras, dachshunds are domestic dogs that were bred by humans to have extra short legs. Dachshunds were originally bred in Germany hundreds of years ago to hunt badgers and other burrow-dwelling animals. Their very long bodies and short little legs made them the perfect size and shape to scurry into burrows after their prey.
Today, dachshunds are popular pets and come in three different coat varieties – smooth, longhair, and wirehair. But they all share the same characteristic shape – a long, low body on ridiculously short legs. Their short legs are prone to back problems, so owners have to be careful not to let them jump from high places. But their elongated bodies and very short legs still make dachshunds super quick, agile and great for hiking or tracking through brush. So even though their body proportions look silly, they do serve a purpose for these active dogs!
Corgis are another short-legged dog breed that people find irresistibly cute. Like dachshunds, corgis were originally bred for a purpose – herding cattle. Their ancestors were larger dogs from Wales that had short legs to help them deftly maneuver around cows’ legs and ankles to nip at their heels. After being crossed with smaller dogs, corgis retained their signature short legs and long body but in a more compact package.
As herding dogs, corgis’ short legs allow them to duck under cows without getting kicked or trampled. Their elongated bodies and stumpy legs also make them very speedy, agile dogs capable of quick turns and bursts of speed to herd their targets. While no longer used as working farm dogs, corgis maintain these useful physical traits. Their lively nature and sturdy, short legs still make them excellent active pets. Corgis delight their owners with their unique appearance and energetic personality.
You’re probably noticing a trend here – many short-legged animals evolved that way to help them manoeuvre close to the ground and zip through tight spaces easily. Weasels are another example of this. Weasels are small, elongated carnivores that hunt rodents and other burrowing prey.
To fit down tiny tunnels and holes in pursuit of food, weasels have very long, narrow bodies and short legs. This snake-like shape allows them to practically slither through cramped ground burrows and vegetation after mice, voles and other animals that take refuge there. Weasels can bend and compress their flexible bodies to fit through incredibly tight spots that their prey can’t. Their tiny legs then help them pop quickly in and out of holes and tunnels on the hunt. So if you ever see a weasel, admire how its crazy body proportions are perfectly adapted for their life as speedy underground hunters!
The last super short-legged animal we’ll look at is the skunk. Like weasels, skunks have very long bodies and short legs to help them get around in underground burrows as they search for food. Although they are known for their stinky spray defence, skunks are omnivores that spend a lot of time snout-down digging through soil and leaf litter looking for grubs, rodents, roots and other food.
Their short, powerful legs allow them to practically swim through loose leaves and dirt while foraging. Skunks also use their long claws to dig, helping them excavate burrows and find food. Their long bodies and short legs are well-suited to all this digging and burrowing behaviour. Their stout shape also makes them quite fearless, as they can hunker down and defend themselves against threats with their noxious spray.
So while skunks are often considered pesky animals we humans try to avoid, their unique short-legged anatomy equips them well for life as adaptable omnivorous scavengers.