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Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better

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"It walks... like a man!"
Shaw, Open Season

This trope is about the fact that some of the animals on the same end of the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism are more likely to be bipedal and others are more likely to stay on all fours. In other words, you have a group of Nearly Normal Animals, Talking Animals, Partially Civilized Animals and Civilized Animals where one character stands on two legs while another stands on four.

The two-legged characters might be more intelligent or more "humanized" than the others - not only does it require much more brain power to balance and coordinate standing on two legs, but it also frees up the front limbs for grasping or tool use - but it's not always the case; usually, the reason for whether a character stands on two legs or four is because some animals would look really weird standing on two legs.

Funny Animal examples are allowed, but no animal that is naturally bipedal, like birds.

Subtrope of Funny Animal Anatomy.

Sometimes, however, a single character, most often a Civilized Animal or a Funny Animal, can shift between using two legs and four.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Animal Land, some animals walk on two legs and some walk on all fours. A number of them though zigzag between walking on two and four.
  • Martian Cats in ARIA vary. Most are regular cats and walk on four legs, but President Aria switches between walking on two and walking on four. The most powerful Martian Cat, Cait Sith, only walks on two legs.
  • Meowth from Pokémon: The Series learned to walk on two legs so that he could be respected by humans. In an ironic twist, this made him a freak amongst other Meowth.
    • Oddly though, Meowths have always been shown to be on two legs in their game sprites (albeit in stances like an actual cat or dog trying to walk or sit on their hind feet) and Meowths in future episodes are shown to walk on two feet. In the Gold and Silver remakes, Meowth's sprites depict them walking on four legs suggesting they aren't the best at two feet walking.
    • Also, the evolutions of some Pokémon that are quadrupeds assume two-legged stances when they evolve (and vice versa). Some are justified, such as Slowbro (as the Shellder that clamp onto their tails provide leverage to weigh them back). Generally, Pokémon that can assume a bipedal stance have better movepools then their quadrupedal cousins, by virtue of gaining access to moves that punch or otherwise require arms/hands to perform.
    • Pikachu is classified as a quadruped, as well, but Ash's Pikachu almost always stands on two legs. This isn't true for all Pikachu, as wild Pikachu tend to stand on all fours.
  • Shirosawa in The Demon Girl Next Door is a tapir that happened to be able to speak and follow human customs, and is naturally on four legs. Although it's painful for him to walk on two legs, he does it in order to blend in better while living among humans.
  • In Twilight Star Sui and Neri, all of the animals are seen walking in an upright, bipedal walking position in Tetsunagi.
  • Tom and Tab from Kimba the White Lion are spotted hyenas that walk on two legs, which makes them unusual in that the rest of the animals in the series mainly walk as they do in real life.

    Comic Strips 
  • Very visible in the Garfield comics: the protagonist originally was drawn walking on all fours, then switched to walking like a human as he came to be depicted increasingly human-like (to the point where he is hardly ever seen not walking upright these days). By comparison, his pal Odie the dog still rarely ever assumes a two-legged stance.
  • Peanuts:
    • Snoopy usually stands on two legs, although he was fully quadrupedal for the strip's first few years. This changed with a 1957 strip where Charlie Brown tries to teach him to stand on two legs, and Snoopy immediately getting the hang of walking on them. Even after this, he was normally quadrupedal until around 1965-the time he began his 'World War I Flying Ace' fantasies.
    • Oddly in a comic from 1959, he understands he loves Sally because she's the only human who knows how to walk on four legs.
    • Jim Davis of Garfield fame admits it was Charles Schulz who taught him how to design both four- and two-legged posture for an animal character.
  • The Far Side had quadrupeds walking upright as often as it had them on all fours. The Barnyard example may have been Inspired by… a Far Side comic where cows were standing up until a spotter shouted "CAR!" Then they went down to four legs when a car went by, after which they went back to standing.
  • Heathcliff was shown on two legs quite a few times. So were Belvedere and the pig in another Jim Davis strip, U.S. Acres.
  • Other dogs and cats in Beetle Bailey usually go at all fours, but after Otto got fitted with a miniature uniform, he's stood mostly on two legs. A couple of times he's been shown going on a date with his date also walking on two legs, perhaps because it would have looked weirdly unequal otherwise.

    Film — Animated 
  • Madagascar: Alex the lion, Gloria the hippo, and Maurice, King Julien, and Mort the lemurs usually stand on two legs, but Marty the zebra and Melman the giraffe, both just as anthro as the others, would sometimes stand that way too. In Melman's case, the less-frequent bipedalism is likely because his long neck and tallness would cause him to be out of frame.
  • Boog the Bear from Open Season usually stands on two legs. Elliot the mule deer also stands occasionally, which causes the hunter Shaw (who's already not all there to begin with) to utter the page quote in horror.
  • The Princess and the Frog: Tiana and Naveen, former humans, still walk on two legs as frogs. Louis the alligator, who dreams of playing the trumpet in a band, also usually stand on two legs. He apparently started doing it to play the trumpet properly.
  • Timon is the only character in The Lion King (1994) that walks on two legs (excluding the avian Zazu). The other meerkats in The Lion King 1 ½ usually walk on two legs as well. Since Timon is a comic relief character who does wacky, human-like things such dressing in a hula skirt (as a distraction, but still, why does a meerkat know a Hawaiian dance?), it suits his personality well. It's also Truth in Television, to an extent-meerkats actually do stand like this in real life to scout their territory, though they never walk like that, only stand.
  • The mice in Cinderella stand on two legs. They also talk, wear clothes, and are good friends to the heroine. Menacing the mice is Lucifer, the evil stepmother's equally evil cat. Lucifer is less anthropomorphic and walks on all fours, behaving more like a real cat-except for his sadism.
  • The mice in The Rescuers usually stand on two legs. These mice, of course, also work for a subdivision of the United Nations and embark on rescue missions to save human children; if one is willing to accept all of that, then surely bipedalism is within the realm of possibility.
    • Frank the Frilled Lizard in The Rescuers Down Under is also bipedal. While real-life frillies are known for standing up, inflating their frill, and running at larger animals in their famous threat gesture, they don't do so constantly.
  • Timothy Q. Mouse from Dumbo exhibits many human behaviors, like speaking, wearing clothes, and, yes, walking on his hind legs. It serves as a contrast to the mute title character, whom Timothy befriends and does the talking for.
  • The wild animal characters in Over the Hedge stand on two legs.
  • Invoked by Remy in Ratatouille. While the other rats go on all fours, Remy chooses to walk on his hind legs to keep his forepaws clean for eating and cooking.
  • The computer animated movie Barnyard by Steve Oedekerk has the cows standing with four legs, but only in front of humans. They prefer standing on their hindlegs like humans. One scene has a cow taunting a mailman by dancing on two legs while the man's back is turned, then going back to the normal four legs when the man turns back around.
  • Sid the sloth, Fast Tony the armadillo, Buck the weasel, the possums Crash and Eddie, and Scrat from the Ice Age movies all walk on two legs.
    • Being a ground sloth, Sid's ability to rise onto his rear legs is justified, albeit only when he's reaching for high branches to feed.
  • Rover Dangerfield often walks on two legs. Since he's based on a real-life comedian, sharing many of his mannerisms but with a cartoon dog's body, it makes sense. It also serves to further contrast him from his love interest, a less anthropomorphic county-dwelling collie.
  • Inverted in Tarzan, as the hero of the movie is a human who walks on all fours and generally behaves like a gorilla, owing to how he was raised.
  • Everyone from Rango is a biped except Rattlesnake Jake since rattlesnakes don't have legs, and the armadillo, who is a quadruped.
  • In general, the characters in Kung Fu Panda (those that fit this trope anyway) walk on two legs, but some switch to all fours when running, presumably just for the sake of speed.
  • In The Secret of NIMH, all the talking animals are bipedal, while the rats used to walk on all fours before escaping from NIMH. During the tractor scene, Mrs. Brisby alternates between the two.
  • Normally, mammals in Zootopia walk on two legs, but will occasionally shift to four legs when stealth or extra dexterity is called for. When an animal goes savage they are shown to revert to four-legged movement at all times.
  • Baloo the bear, the comic relief for The Jungle Book (1967), has a bouncy bipedal gait to set him apart from the more serious Bagheera and the sinister Shere Khan.
  • Brave: Played for Drama, as Bear!Elinor spends most of her time on two legs (and acting human) but reverts to Running on All Fours whenever she starts losing her humanity and becoming a "bear on the inside".

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The intelligent apes in the Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy are shown walking on two legs most of the time. When they need to move quickly, they knuckle-walk.
  • The Indoraptor from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom can alternate between walking on two or four legs (despite being made out of several types of theropod, all of which are bipedal). In the games, it walks on all fours, but stands up on two when running.

  • Animal Farm: The Trope Namer. It's the central concept of the story: as Napoleon (a pig) became more tyrannical and corrupt, he ultimately abandons one of the most important characteristics that the animals took pride in because of how it made them different from the humans - the notion that four legs are good and two legs are bad - and decides to walk on two legs, like a human. This, naturally, led the ever-obeisant sheep to start chanting this trope name.
  • Retconned in the Spellsinger novels: in the first one, Jon-tom is informed that most hoofed mammals aren't intelligent, but later books show these quadrupedal warmlanders talking and using tools designed to be grasped with lips.
  • Walter Brooks' Freddy the Pig started out on four legs but in later books stood on two legs when necessary, such as when he pretended to be a midget during a certain detective case.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In Dinosaurs quadrupedal dinosaurs such as Fran's friend Monica face prejudice. Note that this doesn't necessarily mean dinosaurs that were really quadrupeds; Earl's boss is a bipedal (and carnivorous) triceratops.

    Video Games 
  • Most of the time, Donkey Kong walks on all fours except when he carries something like a barrel. In Donkey Kong 64, however, he always walks on two legs, yet still has the typical posture of a gorilla when he's just standing.
  • In both Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2, all of the Koopas in the game (which are now normally supposed to be bipeds) are actually reverted back into quadrupeds, while both Bowser and Bowser Jr. are still bipeds.
    • Similarly, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has the normally bipedal Dry Bones depicted as being quadrupedal, though this might be justified by them being Beanbean Kingdom Dry Bones and not Mushroom Kingdom Dry Bones.
  • In both Jet Set Radio games, Potts the Dog stands on all fours...until you unlock him as a playable character.
  • Final Fantasy VII plays with this with a sequence on the Junon Cargo Ship in which Red XIII is in disguise as a human and has trouble standing on two legs. The theme for the Cargo Ship, which has a somewhat comic feel, is translated variously as "It's Hard to Stand on Both Feet!" or "It's Difficult to Stand on Both Feet, Isn't It?"
  • Starting in Palumpolum, Final Fantasy XIII's Behemoths start going up on their hind legs and wielding swords when their health gets low. Their sword attacks are much stronger than anything they could do on all fours. In theory, even the weakest variants from before this point can do this as the Beta Behemoth from the first chapter is shown swinging its sword around in the opening cutscene, though it stays on all fours during its boss fight.
  • The Charr in Guild Wars 2 are shown as walking on two legs because they obviously need their arms to wield weapons, though it's mentioned by NPCs and in lore resources that they're more comfortable running on all fours, and when out of combat Charr player characters drop to all fours to run quickly where the other races just pick up the pace more.
  • Most characters in Moonlight Pulse walk on two legs, but some (most notably Laguna) remain quadrupedal. There's no clear pattern to this, and none of the characters comment on it.
  • Many Pokémon start off as quadrupeds but become bipedal as they evolve. Interestingly, they're able to learn many more moves, usually punching moves like Thunder Punch and Sky Uppercut, than they could when they still walked on all fours.
    • Tauros and Miltank are both inspired by cows and, as of Gen VII, are presented as male and female counterparts of each other. Tauros is a quadruped while Miltank is bipedal, which means the Miltank line has the wider movepool as it can learn arm-based moves such as Hammer Arm or Wake-Up Slap.
    • Played up by the Gen V Dark-type Pokémon Purrloin, as it's naturally bipedal, but is capable of sitting in a fashion that makes it look more like a quadruped kitten. It does this a means of making itself seem cute and innocent, both to weasel its way out of punishment when it gets caught stealing things and to lower its opponents' guard to get in a sneak attack. In its origin games, its sprite showed it sitting down, though, from Gen VI onwards, it's depicted standing up on two feet.
    • The Swords of Justice quartet (Cobalion, Terrakion, Virizion, and Keldeo) in Gen V and Zacian and Zamazenta in Gen VIII are exceptions, as they remain quadruped, yet have alternate means of executing weapon-based attacks that would otherwise require a bipedal stance. The Swords of Justice had their once exclusive move Sacred Sword and Keldeo's Secret Sword variant, with which they use their horns to attack. Zacian carries its sword in its mouth, while Zamazenta wears its shield as headgear. All of these are Legendary Pokemon. This makes this a Zigzagged Trope, because while this trope applies to most Pokemon, these Legendaries are skilled enough to overcome that implied limitation.
    • In fact, this is common enough in Pokemon that it's more notable to note the the evolution families that stay on all fours or even actually revert to quadripedalism like the Samurott line (which can stand on two legs for attacks, but moves on all fours). Even things like bugs aren't safe; though often depicted flying, many Bug-type Pokemon like Butterfree, Beedrill, Ledian, Vivillon and Golisopod clearly adopt an upright gait and gain hands. It's such a common occurence that a fandom joke is to look very sceptically upon any newly-announced starter Pokemon on four legs, fully expecting it to become bipedal by its final stage.
  • World of Warcraft: Worgen normally walk on two legs, but can get down on all fours to run at mount speed. Feral worgen also typically stand on two legs but walk on all four. Given that the playable worgen are recently-transformed humans with their minds restored, it makes sense that they'd be more comfortable with a human posture over their "natural" animal one.

    Web Comics 
  • In Draconia Chronicles, female tigers are sapient and bipedal, male tigers are not and not. Inverted with dragons, the humanoid females are slightly below the human baseline (judging by how they have Hollywood Tactics that have left them stuck in a Forever War for about the last thousand years,) and the quadrupedal males are far smarter and wiser.
  • In Kevin & Kell, most land mammals are shown on two legs, but are seen to be as capable of being on four legs. Anyone who escapes to The Wild, like Vin Vulpen for example, goes down to four legs. But it's not uncommon to have larger civilized mammals on four legs. A good example is Carl, who was almost always seen on four legs in his early appearances. But he rose to two legs on his first date with Leona, and has been more often seen on two legs since then.

    Western Animation 
  • In the The Wind in the Willows segment of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Cyril Proudbottom the horse sometimes stood on two legs, but Mr. Toad, Ratty, Mole, Badger, and the weasels always stood on two legs.
  • Chip 'n Dale and Humphrey the bear from the Classic Disney Shorts stand on two legs.
    • Also, compare the intelligence between the two-legged Mickey Mouse and his four-legged dog Pluto, down to the point that Pluto is Mickey's pet. (Pluto did very occasionally stand on two legs, but he usually walks on all fours.) Adding further confusion is the fact that Goofy, Mickey's friend is also a dog, but is bipedal and talks.
    • The rodents (Chip, Dale, Gadget, and Monterey Jack), Fat Cat, and a lot of the other animal characters from Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers likewise usually stand on two legs.
  • Tom and the other cats and Jerry and the other mice in Tom and Jerry usually stood on two legs.
  • Most Looney Tunes animal characters (not counting the bird characters) stand on two legs at least part of the time. This is because, even when the characters engage in normal animal activities, they do so in an over-the-top anthropomorphic way. For example, real-life coyotes do hunt for their food, but unlike Wile E., don't expect to see one buying dynamite from the Acme Corporation to aid with their hunt.
  • Most Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs animal characters (not counting the bird characters) stand on two legs at least part of the time. Exceptions to this are the dogs Buttons (Justified as his shorts spoof classic Heroic Dog characters like Lassie, and he also lacks the ability to speak) and Runt (Justified as he is really, really dumb, especially compared to Rita, and his walking on fours vs. her frequent bipedalism is good visual shorthand for it).
    • Snowball the hamster and most of the mice from Pinky and the Brain usually stand and move around on two legs.
  • Brian and Jasper from Family Guy usually walk on two legs. There are a number less- or completely non-anthropomorphic dogs that walk on all fours and lack the ability to speak-and don't womanize like Brian.
  • Baloo the bear walks on two legs both in The Jungle Book (1967) and TaleSpin, but Shere Khan only assumes a two-legged stance in TaleSpin.
  • The cats in The Garfield Show usually assume an upright stance. The dogs, who are usually depicted as less intelligent, don't for the most part.
  • Some WordWorld animals (not counting the birds) walk on two legs and some walk on all fours.
  • In Adventures from the Book of Virtues, Plato walks on all fours, but Socrates and Aristotle usually stand on two legs. Given that Plato is just as anthropomorphic as the others-usually being the one that delivers the moral each episode-his being a quadruped is likely just an aesthetic choice.
  • In Doc McStuffins, Lambie, a stuffed lamb of Doc's mostly stands and walks on two legs, but sometimes, she stands and walks on all fours.
  • All of the animals in Slacker Cats walk on their back legs except for the wild tiger they find, because he's more in tune with his wild side than they are. (He also doesn't talk.)
  • Both Ratty and Mole from Mr. Bogus walk on two legs.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Bart Gets an Elephant", the family was concerned all the time with Stampy the elephant. The cat and the dog try to do anything to call the Simpsons' attention... including to stand in two legs and say that they love them. They fell to the ground one second afterwards.
  • On Blue's Clues, the dogs Blue, Magenta and Green Puppy all walk on four legs and so did the cat, Periwinkle. However, in the reboot Blue's Clues & You!, Periwinkle walks on only two legs. Notably, while the dogs on the series can only do a sort of barking speech, Periwinkle can talk.
  • Massimo from Producing Parker is often on two legs. Note that this is only when he's just with Parker, around everyone else he walks on all fours like a normal dog.
  • In Regular Show, Rigby (a raccoon) walks upright on two legs, but runs on all fours.

    Real Life 
  • This is basically the premise of the endurance running hypothesis, which is why humans appear the way they are: while becoming bipedal, which is an adaptation for early hominids in order to survive in the savanna after climate change dries up the forests which they first evolved in, makes animals slower than quadrupedal animals on shorter distances, combined with the evolution of sweat glands and the loss of most body hair except on the head, the torso, the limbs, the armpits, and the... down there, this allowed us humans to travel farther and longer distances without the need to stop and cool off, and thus prior to the invention of ranged weapons, allowed us humans to initially catch prey by literally chasing them to death. It also explains why we humans, unlike other animals, wear clothing to make up for the loss of most of our fur. However, due to the invention of vehicles acting as unfair advantage to biological speed limits (as well as inventing ranged weapons such as firearms that allow us to attack and kill prey from a longer, safer distance), relying entirely on endurance to hunt and travel has become waaay too time-consuming nowadays, and obviously, if pitted against any land vehicle, our endurance would eventually tire out, which is also why most of us never make it to their public transport before they leave without us if we're late.
  • Inverted with many non-theropod dinosaurs: originally the first dinosaurs were all bipeds, however while theropods (including birds) remained bipeds as they were more efficient for being predators, other dinosaurs that were instead herbivores (particularly sauropods, thyreophorans, ornithopods, and ceratopsians) gradually became quadrupeds to support their increasing weight from the constant diet of plants and vegetations, although some ornithopods, while mostly quadrupeds when traveling at slower speeds, likely became bipedal while running fast, with only the pachycephalosaurs remaining bipedal.