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In the movie Kung Fu Panda 2, we see the main villain Lord Shen having several bipedal wolves as his soldiers.

I was wondering if we to engineer an anatomically correct bipedal wolf species, what would they look like?

Alot of popular art show them more or less like a human sized wolf walking on its hind legs. However i don´t know if such legs would be strong enough, or if they would snap under the weight of their own body.

So how would an anatomically correct bipedal wolf look like?

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    $\begingroup$ Well, existing artwork for the Traveller RPG shows pretty much the same thing for Vargr... $\endgroup$ Jan 26, 2023 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ You haven't seen dogs walking on their hind legs? $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Jan 26, 2023 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ If you search the site for "bipedal dog," "bipedal wolf," etc., you'll find a great many questions ranging from the leg and hip structure to the chest and arm structures. This should prove valuable since you don't define what "anatomically correct" means in your context. By definition, whatever genetic engineering was done to create bipedal wolves would be anatomically correct. Also, please be aware that traditionally questions asking "what would X look like?" are closed as too subjective. They can look like almost anything. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 26, 2023 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ Technically a duplicate question, but it duplicates a 7-year-old question so I think it's ok $\endgroup$ Jan 26, 2023 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ "Anatomically Correct Werewolves" is asking about transformation and says it does not care about anatomical layout, and "Alternate paths to Orthostasis" specifies that it is about bipedal baboons, and not bipedal canines. So, unless someone has a question asking specifically about the anatomy of bipedal canines, I still don't think this is a duplicate despite having quite a few closely related questions. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jan 26, 2023 at 16:54

2 Answers 2

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There is nothing unfeasible about diminutive legs

Just because something is bipedal and intelligent does not mean that it has to fill the human niche exactly. Humans have very long, thick, and powerful hind legs for walking and running incredibly long distances at a time by animal kingdom standards. Humans evolved in savanna like conditions to be nomads that favored endurance for traveling between food and water sources that could be pretty far apart; so, in many ways, our legs are actually way over engineered. However, when you look at our forest favoring bipedal cousins like Chimpanzees or Gorillas, you actually see relatively diminutive hindlegs, despite having the capacity for bipedal locomotion. This does not keep them from walking, it just means they won't be walking for kilometers at a time without a bit of "knuckle dragging" to augment thier legs. If you consider such style of wolf-men more like smart Chimps and less like hairy humans, everything about their body plan checks out. The only thing I would probably change is to thicken up the pastern a bit, since the cartoon depicts this part of the leg as really skinny, even by quadrupedal standards.

enter image description here

What about the digitigrade feet?

Again, humans are endurance optimized creatures. That said, most bipeds are actually digitigrade (ostriches, emus, chickens, etc.). Even humans often prefer digitigrade locomotion when physically pushing ourselves; so, retaining digitigrade feet not only seems possible for wolf-men, but is actually the more probable form for a biped take.

Genetic Engineering Considerations

When you add genetic engineering to the table, your options open up really wide. Now the body plan has nothing to do with genetic fitness and natural niches and everything to do with meeting the goals of the engineer. So, if you wanted to make an artificial species to serve you as guards or factory line workers, that need lots of upper body strength, but are not expected to do a lot of marching... then this body plan checks out fine.

The only thing I really question when people proposes generically engineering bipedal canine warriors is the dietary issues. Canines need to eat a lot of meat, and meat is expensive. If you wanted to genetically engineer any type of servant/solider, it is best to start with with an optional omnivore like a rat or similar rodent, because they will be the cheapest and easiest to feed. Cost of upkeep is a big consideration when designing another species to enslave.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ignoring the genetic engineering part, I wonder if a bipedal wolf's ankle would eventually fall to the ground, leading to the "evolution" (or adaptation) of a closer-to-true-foot? Constantly balancing on those paws would be no small thing. On the other hand, If left that way (balancing on paws), I'd suspect it would lead to a massive expansion of both the muscles connecting paw to ankle and thickening of both the cartilage and ligaments. Curiously, that path might eventually look (look...) more like a hoof than a paw. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 26, 2023 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH That is possible. I think the other possibility would be that the toes would lengthen like that of a racoon to aid in climbing and improve soft-ground performance. It sort of depends on the Wolfman's native habitat, and what exactly it evolved to use its feet for. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jan 26, 2023 at 16:25
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Thick hind legs, hunched back, and either a small headed or large tail

Wolves (and most tetrapods that aren't humans) support their skulls with musculature, whereas humans support their heads with their spines. so most likely your wolf species will have a dramatic hunch-back, this might also limit the size of the head because that's more weight for the neck muscles to support (it's totally possible that this is one reason that humans are now bipedal, to support the head with bone instead of muscle) or your biped wolf would have a large tail to act as a counter-balance.

Thicker legs would also help support the weight of the body, since you're only working with two.

Another, more unique Option:

Depending on your definition of a "Biped," A wolf with a Theropod (Dinosaurs including T-rex, velociraptor, Birds, and their relatives) body plan. enter image description here

It's less human, but a viable and unique take. Deinonychus and wolves probably shared the same niche (pack hunting mid-teir carnivores), so the design works

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    $\begingroup$ Unrelated but gosh darn it I really want to make a Diogenes joke: by Plato's definition of a man (a featherless Biped) the theropod dinosaurs in all the Jurassic Park/world movies would be a man, as well as plucked chickens. $\endgroup$ Jan 26, 2023 at 16:36

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