The quadruped would be a medium creature, roughly human sized, with the same intelligence and inventiveness of humans

They have 4 limbs, with 2 forefeet and 2 more prehensile hindfeet, with equal dexterity to human hands

This may present issues for this species, as it would be harder to see the hands, and harder to free them up for work

Would these issues limit the power of the quadrupeds' tool use/creation, or would they be as capable as humans?

  • $\begingroup$ Curious: do you actually mean quadruped or tetrapod? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Dec 23, 2021 at 1:33

4 Answers 4


I'll rephrase:

Would humans be able to use tools as well if their hands and feet were swapped?

It should be, if they evolved these dexterous hands. The evolution implies that they have something to do with them, and are able to do it better with fine motor control.

So, to give you a reasonable answer on those grounds, Why did they develop hands there?

Mad Science

If they have those hands there "because I said so", then no. The hands will usually be occupied with walking, and they're substantially harder to see. Tools will still be useful.

If you preserve this species for long enough that evolution becomes a factor and give them the chance/incentive to use tools (alien tech?), then I'd expect to see the sensory organs and dexterous limbs migrate closer to each other, or the sensory organs being replicated. The hands might possibly develop a hoof-like protrusion (eventually semimobile) to support the body while the "hand" works.

  • $\begingroup$ " then I'd expect to see the sensory organs and dexterous limbs migrate closer to each other" I'm afraid to ask where is it plausible for the eyes to move to be close enough to some dextrous feet ;) $\endgroup$ Dec 23, 2021 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ "He then bends over, grabs his backside to spread his butt cheeks and shouts 'I SEE YOU!!'" $\endgroup$
    – Sonvar
    Dec 23, 2021 at 14:55

Sharpened sticks

So for some reason, these two hands are there, on the back, and they have developed. Apparently, this creature has had a purpose for these arms in nature. It knows how to move these hands, and use them to e.g. transport things, dig in, or remove harmful insects. For whatever reason these hands are there, they could become instruments to make tools. One tool (or a means of defense) I can think of is a sharpened wooden stick. Using the hands, the animal is perfectly capable of polishing and sharpening, by moving around and grinding the tool.

Humans do better on.. human tools

Other tools can be invented to make with these back hands, they would need tactile abilities. But if your question really is "as well as humans ?" that would not be the case. They would never have developed the tools humans developed, because these tools had no purpose for them. Stone tools like humans developed served to crack and cut food, to separate the fur from the meat.. and to use as weapons. All of these tasks require eye-hand coordination to execute ! Even if your creature can make these tools, it would have no means to handle them.

Wood as base material: wedges, spades

Humans have worked 2 million years to develop stone tools. Maybe your creatures will work 2 million years to learn to use wood as a building material ? The purpose would be to build safe houses, or floating houses (help settlement). It could discover rope, it may be able to knit cloth. Your creature could also use these hands to dig into the ground and find things, or plant things. Agriculture could be in place earlier in its evolution, compared to humans. Maybe it would develop a spade.


It makes no sense for an organism to evolve this way.

Humans evolved our highly dexterous hands after we evolved the lumbar curve and no longer used those hands for walking. Most importantly, they allowed us to carry or throw things while walking or running, whereas our quadruped ancestors (and cousins) had to carry things in their mouths and then stop to throw them. Our ability to carry/throw things is theorized to be the reason our brains evolved to be so different.

I can’t see any similar pressures that would cause the evolution of similarly dextrous feet, which would still be needed for walking, or the consequent development of high intelligence.


Without a more detailed description of how their body works it's hard to say, but I assume "quadruped" at least implies they can hardly walk on three legs, if at all.

This means the simple act (for humans) of carrying something (like a hammer, stone, knife, ...) for more then a few meters already requires some kind of harness or bag.

Most hunting tools and weapons don't work as well with that limitation. A human can carry a spear and move simultaneously, your quadrupeds need to decide on either moving gracefully or be "empty handed". Besides that, they need to take a lot of extra care to not hit their own front legs.

In general their front legs are a major hindrance. Essentially all wide, sweeping movements are difficult, if at all possible. For example, how would they throw a fishing net? Or use a scythe?

Tool use is probably very limited compared to humans. Much better then other animals, but still.


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