A Locomotion Scoring System Using 7 Gait Characteristics

Through detailed study of cow movement, researchers at the University of British Columbia have developed a gait scoring system based on detailed observations of animal movement. The system uses the following seven gait behaviours in the 5-point scoring system described in the table below.
Click here to watch a video that briefly describes these behaviours.

1. Reluctance to bear weight - this looks at whether the animal is favouring a limb. Animals free from injury would be expected to bear weight evenly over the four limbs where an animal with an injury may not place all her weight on an affected limb. View video.
2. Asymmetric steps - looks at the rhythm of the foot placement. An animal free from injuries places her hooves in an even 1,2,3,4 fashion but an animal with injuries might have an uneven foot placement – 1,2,,,3,4. View video.
3. Tracking up - refers to how close the hind feet place in relation to the front feet. An injury-free animal will place her hind hoof in the track of her front hoof. The hind hooves of animals with injuries often fall short of the track where the front hooves were placed. View video.
4. Head bob - the head moves as an animal walks but animals with injuries often have a jerky up-and-down head movements as they walk. View video.
5. Joint flexion - expect animals with no injuries to flex and extend their limbs through the normal range of motion. Injured animals may be more limited in their range of motion. View video.
6. Swinging in or out - refers to how much the hind legs swing out from the body. Animals with no injuries move legs in a straight line but those with injuries swing the legs out in a circular motion. View video.
7. Back arch - an injury-free animal has a flat back while an injured animal may arch her back. View video.

Gait Scoring System for Dairy Cows
Score Description Behavioural Criteria
Smooth and fluid
• Flat back when standing and walking
• No swinging out
• Symmetrical gait
• All legs bear weight equally
• Joints flex freely
• Hind-hooves track up to fore-hoof prints
• Head carriage remains steady as the animal moves
2 Ability to move freely
not diminished
• Flat or mildly arched back when standing and walking
• Minimal swinging out
• Slightly asymmetric gait
• All legs bear weight equally
• Joints slightly stiff
• Hind-hooves do not track up perfectly but shortened strides are uniform
• Head carriage remains steady
3 Capable of locomotion
but ability to move
freely is compromised
• Flat or mildly arched back when standing, but obviously arched when walking
• Swinging out
• Asymmetrical gait
• Slight limp can be discerned in one limb
• Joints show signs of stiffness but do not impede freedom of movement
• Hind-hooves do not track up and strides may be shortened
• Head carriage remains steady
4 Ability to move freely is
obviously diminished
• Obvious arched back when standing and walking
• Swinging out
• Asymmetrical gait
• Reluctant to bear weight on at least one limb but still uses that limb in locomotion
• Strides are hesitant and deliberate and joints are stiff
• Hind-hooves do not track up and strides are short
• Head bobs slightly as animal moves


Ability to move is
severely restricted
Must be vigorously
encouraged to stand
and/or move
• Extreme arched back when standing and walking
• Swinging out
• Asymmetrical gait
• Inability to bear weight on one or more limbs
• Obvious joint stiffness characterized by lack of joint flexion with very hesitant and deliberate strides
• One or more strides obviously shortened
• Head obviously bobs as animal moves