The animal kingdom has thousands of different unique creatures, each one a little bit different than the next. There are animals ranging from having no legs to having dozens of legs! We obviously know that legs are used for locomotion through walking, running, jumping or even swimming. In this article though, we will focus on animals that walk on two legs.
Walking on two legs is more formally known as bipedalism. Animals that walk in this fashion are therefore considered to be bipedal or bipeds. The term biped literally translates to “two feet” and refers to any animal that uses two legs to walk, hop or run. Since there are actually very few animals on the planet that walk on two legs, we weren’t too strict for this list of bipedal animals. We added a few that are partially bipedal or only walk on two legs on occasion.
Including humans, here are 13 animals on earth that can travel bipedally.
- Kangaroo Rats
- Basilisk Lizards
- Giant Pangolins
It’s no surprise that humans make this list, as we are all familiar with our ability to walk using two legs! Humans rely solely on their two legs to walk, run and jump. The ability to walk bipedally while also using our two arms to carry and lift things has greatly benefitted us and our abilities to multitask and use tools, which has been essential for the advancement of humans.
Humans can be found on every continent and in a wide variety of different climatic conditions. The advancement of technology, transportation, tools and materials has allowed for humans to live in even the harshest conditions.
These marsupials are most often associated with hopping, but because they hop along solely on two legs they are considered bipedal. Kangaroos have incredibly strong hind legs that allow them to hop incredibly fast and far. Kangaroos also have two arms that are rarely used in locomotion, but sometimes they will use them to slowly crawl or walk.
There are four species of Kangaroos that can be found throughout Australia. They are most common in grassy plains and in and around woodlands.
Gorillas, while they sometimes walk with assistance from their arms on their knuckles, also frequently will walk solely using two legs. They may walk on their two legs while they need to use their arms and hands to hold food or their young.
There are two species of Gorillas, each with two subspecies. These apes are only found in central Africa with the two species separated by the Congo River. Gorillas are found in montane forests or swampland.
4. Kangaroo Rats
Kangaroo Rats certainly aren’t your average rat. They have incredibly long back legs, that they use almost exclusively to hop around on- rarely using their front legs while on the move. They are also experts at surviving in desert temperatures and like camels, can actually go long periods of time without water.
There are actually 22 different species of Kangaroo Rat, all of which are found in the United States. Kangaroo Rats are found in dry or desert like habitats in the Western and Southwestern United States.
5. Basilisk Lizard
Basilisk Lizards, also known as the “Jesus Christ Lizard” are partially bipedal. They get their nickname for their amazing ability to literally run on water, which they do using their hind legs only. Understandably, Basilisk Lizards need to pick up quite a bit of speed to run across water.
Basilisk Lizards can be found in Central and South America where they live near streams or other bodies of freshwater. They have also been introduced to southern Florida, along with many other invasive reptiles in Florida.
6. Giant Pangolins
Giant Pangolins are curious creatures that resemble what you would get if you were to mix an anteater with an armadillo, and their body plan doesn’t really look like they would be bipedal. Pangolins are fairly slow moving animals, but they are capable of standing up on their hindlegs and waddling along for short distances.
Giant Pangolins are from Africa. They are distributed throughout parts of Western and Central Africa where they can be found in forests, rainforests, and in Savannah habitats.
Wallabies are related to Kangaroos and share many physical similarities, including a pair of very strong back legs that they use to travel on by hopping. These guys are much smaller than Kangaroos, but this doesn’t stop them from jumping at great speeds.
Like Kangaroos, Wallabies are native to Australia. However there are also populations of Wallabies that have been introduced to New Zealand. There are actually several genera of Wallabies with many species.
Bears do not typically walk on their hind legs, as this sort of movement can be very tiring and cumbersome for their large bodies. That being said, sometimes Bears will get up on their hind legs and slowly wander around to find food or reach up high while checking out their surroundings.
There are eight species of Bears, many of which we are familiar with. Bears can be found in North America, Europe, Asia and one species of bear, the Spectacled Bear can be found in South America.
Chimpanzees are closely related to humans and are among the smartest species of animals on the planet, so it’s no wonder that these great apes can also walk upright on two legs. Chimps frequently rely on their back legs to move around, while also sometimes using their arms to travel at high speed.
There are four subspecies of Chimpanzees, all of which are found in Africa. Chimpanzees inhabit forested habitats and Savannah in Western and central Africa.
Gibbons are an incredibly dynamic group of primates. They have long, strong arms that allow them to swing from tree to tree with no problem. They make amazing acrobats and rarely come down to the forest floor. But when they do, Gibbons are able to walk using two legs, keeping their hands above their head to stay balanced. Gibbons are actually the best at traveling bipedally compared to other primates.
Gibbons are almost strictly arboreal and live a life high up in the forest canopy. They are found in forests throughout India, many parts of Southeast Asia and China.
Ostriches are the largest living birds in the world with the male growing to 9 feet tall and reach weights of over 330 pounds. Since the ostrich is a flightless bird they have adapted to walking on land on their 2 strong legs and using their long necks and beaks to do everything else. To protect themselves from predators they use their 4 inch claws on their feet and their incredible speed.
If you want to see a wild ostrich then you’ll need to visit the savannas and woodlands of Africa where they live. Though there is a small population of ostriches living in Southern Australia where they were introduced sometime in the late 1890s.
Though not flightless, flamingos still spend a great deal of time on the ground walking on 2 long legs and wading through water in search of food. There are 6 species of flamingos in the world. The Greater Flamingo, which is the species that is found in the U.S., can reach a height of almost 5 feet tall.
These birds are found on every continent except for Australia and Antarctica. The American Flamingo, or Greater Flamingo, is occasionally seen in Florida.
Another partially bipedal animal I add to this list is the penguin. Penguins are also flightless birds however they have the unique ability of being able to swim like a fish, or even better. They spend most of their lives in the water and only about 25% of their lives on land, but they are walking or standing on their 2 legs when they’re dry.
Between all 17 species of penguins, these flightless birds can actually be found in Africa, Antarctica, Australia, and South America. Though some of the more notable species, like the Emperor Penguin and the Gentoo, live exclusively in Antartica.
The animals on this list prove that walking on two legs isn’t only a human trait. In fact, bipedal locomotion occurs across multiple taxa and even in animals that you may never think to consider as bipeds!