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Centaurs. Half human, half equine.

The idea's been bouncing around in my head for the past hour, so I'm going to ask it here:

Would a centaur structurally make more sense if the torso was at the rear, center, or front of the body? Also, would it be more structurally stable if the hips were that of a horse's or if the equine-like part was more of a square?

(In essence, I want a wiki post made of this one.)

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting idea! If we compare centaurs to human horseback riders (one theorized inspiration), maybe having the torso at the center would be effective. This question seems like it would require a lot of complicated engineering and biological knowledge, though. $\endgroup$ – sumelic Jun 9 '15 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ Right. I like making challenges. Pretty much you just make a claim and create an argument to back up that claim. That's all there is to it. $\endgroup$ – Nefer007 Jun 9 '15 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ @sumelic good point, but then again you'd be replacing the horse's head with weight. I have no answer to this, just adding input. I cannot believe I've just looked up video of centaurs moving. $\endgroup$ – Mikey Jun 10 '15 at 6:35
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    $\begingroup$ I’ve always wondered more where the breasts and genitals go. $\endgroup$ – Crissov Sep 18 '15 at 13:52
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I think the traditional, front-mounted-torso makes the most sense. If the torso was at the back or middle, it would significantly decrease the arms range of motion so they wouldn't be able to easily pick things up from the ground.

Structurally speaking, I think the front-mounted (or back-mounted) torso is nice because the torso and the legs line up, giving the torso more direct support. If the torso were in the middle, the horses 'spine' or whatever would have to directly support the weight, which doesn't make as much sense.

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The middle is right out. Consider the spine, and how the two spines would have to connect: There would have to be some sort of three-way vertebra (horse back, horse front, human). I've never heard of a split spine in any creature, so we have nothing to base this off. (There are mutant snakes with two heads, but these x-rays seems to show either a blob of bony material, which would be very heavy, or no proper connection at all, which would provide no support.) As one of the other answers mentioned, this would cause the horse spine to sag as the weight won't be supported directly over the legs. On the other hand, having the torso closer to the center of gravity might be more practical for maneuvering. (Semi-related: My favorite mythical creature, the Nuckelavee, has its torso in the middle. It also has no skin and breathes the plague, so it's not a great example of realism.)

What about in the back? It would look absurd, for one. But internal organs are the big problem. There would be no practical mouth, unless you have a) a giant freaky gaping hole where the horse head should go, b) a horse head, which makes it not really a centaur, or c) use the human mouth, which requires a uselessly long esophagus running down its back along the spine, or reverse the internal organs front-to-back, which is just a centaur walking backwards. Additionally, the pelvis of the horse seems ill-equipped to support the weight of the human torso. Just look at those scrawny little coxa. More importantly, I can't see a good way to connect the human spine to the horse spine. The horse spine curves downward into the tail (which you would also have to find a way to deal with) but it needs to slope upward into the human spine and I think it needs more space to do that than the tiny space you can see in the picture, whereas the horse neck is already basically straight up.

One other consideration for the middle and the back: What do you do with the horse head? With the front it's obvious that the human torso replaces the horse neck, but what else could you do with it? Just truncate the spine at the shoulder and have a rounded blob in front? That removes the need for several muscle groups, and probably a few bones. Keep the horse head? Like I said, not really a centaur anymore. You also have the problem of which brain is in charge of what. So torso in front is really the only sensible solution.

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  • $\begingroup$ "I've never heard of a split spine in any creature" - Entirely true. Then again, there are no records of hexapodal vertebrates, either, so historical example is not entirely germane here. If i squint real hard and have a few drinks, I can postulate a mutation which causes the spinal column to bifurcate half-way down, producing the desired base structure. Of course, the two ends will face in opposite directions AND have duplicate organs (including orifices), but that is left as an exercise to the reader. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Feb 12 at 17:49
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Torso in the middle or rear does not seem too practical. On the one hand, it will make maneuvering on rough ground very difficult, as the forward portion of the torso will block visibility for near terrain. The selective pressures on a centaur species trying to gallop at speed should be obvious. On the other hand, it will also become extremely difficult to manipulate objects, since, as Martin_xs6 pointed out, it would be difficult to pick them up. Not that it would be easy for a classical centaur, with arms so high up, but at least a standard centaur can see objects that he wants to pick up. And leaning sideways is not a great option, since it requires extreme torsional compliance of the body and spine.

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