Follow TV Tropes


Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better

Go To

"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.


    open/close all folders 

    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 the Pokémon anime 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.
    • 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.

  • 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.
  • Snoopy from the Peanuts comics, movies, and TV specials usually stands on two legs, although he was fully quadrupedal from 1950 to 1957 and normally quadrupedal from 1957 to around 1965 (noticeably around the time he began his 'World War I Flying Ace' fantasies).
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • And in a strip from 1957 we actually see the first time he walks on two legs "on-camera" rather than this being a background thing, with Charlie Brown trying to teach him to stand on two legs and Snoopy immediately getting the hang of walking on them.
  • 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 would sometimes stand that way too.
  • 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.
  • Tiana and Naveen as frogs and Louis the alligator from The Princess and the Frog usually stand on two legs. Louis apparently does it to play the trumpet properly.
  • Timon is the only character in The Lion King (1994) that walks on two legs (not counting Zazu, who, being a bird, is exempt from this trope).
    • The other meerkats in The Lion King 1½ usually walk on two legs as well.
      • Truth in Television in that meerkats actually do stand like this in real life to scout their territory, but also Exaggerated because they never walk like that, only stand.
  • The mice in Cinderella stand on two legs.
  • The mice in The Rescuers usually stand on two legs. As does Frank the Frilled Lizard in The Rescuers Down Under; while real-life frillies are known for standing up, inflating their frill, and running at larger animals in their famous threat gesture, they're not constantly bipedal.
  • Timothy Q. Mouse from Dumbo stands on two legs.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Two-legged Charlie B. Barkin from All Dogs Go to Heaven, a German Shepherd/Collie mix, contrasts with Itchy Itchiford, who walks on all fours because of his Dachshund anatomy.
  • 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 from The Jungle Book (1967).

    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 Ambiguously Human 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?"
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.

    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.
    • Don't forget the comparison in intelligence between the two-legged Mickey Mouse and the four-legged 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.
    • Let’s also not forget the other classic shorts characters: Goofy, for example, is a dog, but he walks on two legs.
    • 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.
  • Most Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs animal characters (not counting the bird characters) stand on two legs at least part of the time as well, including the cats Rita and Furrball.
    • Snowball the hamster and most of the mice from Pinky and the Brain usually stand and move around on two legs.
    • But Buttons and Runt pretty much stay on all fours.
      • When Rita and Runt make a Cameo in the Hip Hippos episode, "Moving Experience," Rita is shown running on two legs and Runt is running on all fours.
  • Brian and Jasper from Family Guy usually walk on two legs. There are a number of dogs in this same universe that do not, and also cannot speak.
  • Same with Tim and Arianna the bears from The Cleveland Show.
  • 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 but the dogs usually don't.
  • 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.
  • 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 but the wild tiger they find doesn't (he also doesn't talk) because he's more in tune with his wild side than they are.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • Dinosaurs. They're the first bipedal vertebrates known in history.
    • It gets a bit complicated. Bipedalism first developed in some Archosaur groups in the Triassic. Among their descendants were the dinosaurs and the crocodilians. Many of these groups later reverted back to quadrupedal designs. Birds descended from a group that was exclusively bipedal.
  • This is generally best done by plantigrade mammals, such as apes, baboons, capuchin monkeys, giant pangolins, bears, and the extinct ground sloths, while digitigrades like dogs, rabbits, and cats are generally a little less capable of this and unguligrade animals like horses and cows even less capable of this.
    • Most mammals that are bipedal, like kangaroos, wallabies, jumping mice, kangaroo rats, jerboas, and springhares, hop bipedally rather than walk that way (although kangaroos and wallabies are usually pentapedal—walking on all four limbs with the tail acting as a fifth one), and sifakas and indris stand and leap sideways on two legs.
  • Cockroaches run on their hind legs.
  • Some lizards rise up on their hind legs when running very fast.
  • Beavers walk on their hind legs to carry armloads of mud and vegetation for use in constructing dams and lodges.
  • Young mice go through a "hopper" stage when they first develop the ability to move out of the nest, jumping on their hind feet as much as they walk on all fours. This is probably because early on, their hind legs have more strength and stamina than their forelegs.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: