Cine film and synchronized records of respiratory flow were obtained from Thoroughbred racehorses cantering on a treadmill at speeds of 9 and 11 m s-1. Horses and some other galloping and hopping mammals link their breathing and locomotion, taking exactly one breath per stride. Three theoretical mechanisms by which the movements of locomotion might drive ventilation are considered. (i) Flexion of the lumbosacral joint and the resulting forward sweep of the pelvis pushes the viscera against the diaphragm. However, back flexion lags behind ventilation at 11 m s-1 and could not exclusively drive ventilation at this speed. (ii) Loading of the thorax by the impact of the forelimbs with the ground might force air out of the lungs. If the respiratory system were damped sufficiently to perform as this mechanism requires, the work of driving ventilation would make up approximately 15% of the total work of running. In comparison with other estimates of the work of ventilation this seems improbably high. (iii) The observed phase relationship between displacements of the viscera, caused by the accelerations of the body during running, and respiratory airflow is not consistent with a tuned visceral piston mechanism driving breathing. Thus, it would seem likely that back flexion is likely to contribute towards driving ventilation but loading of the thorax and the visceral piston mechanism do not.

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