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Comparative functional anatomy of the epaxial musculature of dogs (Canis familiaris) bred for sprinting vs. fighting

Webster, E L; Hudson, P E; Channon, S B


E L Webster

P E Hudson

S B Channon


The axial musculoskeletal system of quadrupedal mammals is not currently well understood despite its functional importance in terms of facilitating postural stability and locomotion. Here we examined the detailed architecture of the muscles of the vertebral column of two breeds of dog, the Staffordshire bull terrier (SBT) and the racing greyhound, which have been selectively bred for physical combat and high speed sprint performance, respectively. Dissections of the epaxial musculature of nine racing greyhounds and six SBTs were carried out; muscle mass, length, and fascicle lengths were measured and used to calculate muscle physiological cross‐sectional area (PCSA), and to estimate maximum muscle potential for force, work and power production. The longissimus dorsi muscle was found to have a high propensity for force production in both breeds of dog; however, when considered in combination with the iliocostalis lumborum muscle it showed enhanced potential for production of power and facilitating spinal extension during galloping gaits. This was particularly the case in the greyhound, where the m. longissimus dorsi and the m. iliocostalis lumborum were estimated to have the potential to augment hindlimb muscle power by ca. 12%. Breed differences were found within various other muscles of the axial musculoskeletal system, particularly in the cranial cervical muscles and also the deep muscles of the thorax which insert on the ribs. These may also highlight key functional adaptations between the two breeds of dog, which have been selectively bred for particular purposes. Additionally, in both breeds of dog, we illustrate specialisation of muscle function by spinal region, with differences in both mass and PCSA found between muscles at varying levels of the axial musculoskeletal system, and between muscle functional groups.


Webster, E. L., Hudson, P. E., & Channon, S. B. (in press). Comparative functional anatomy of the epaxial musculature of dogs (Canis familiaris) bred for sprinting vs. fighting. Journal of Anatomy, 225(3), 317-327.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 13, 2014
Deposit Date Nov 11, 2014
Print ISSN 0021-8782
Publisher Wiley
Volume 225
Issue 3
Pages 317-327
Public URL
Additional Information Corporate Creators : Chichester, Liverpool