Tracking Terms

You will need a basic vocabulary to follow some of the narrative included in these pages.

Trail Measurements

Stride Distance from heel (or toe) of a foot to the heel (or toe) of the same foot where it next touches the ground. We have adopted Jim Halfpenny's definition of stride.
Half Stride Distance from heel (or toe) of the right foot to the heel (or toe) of the left foot. We have coined this term to describe what many texts call "stride".
Straddle Distance from outer edge of left track to outer edge of right track.
Trail Width Same as straddle. Different authors use different terms.
Group Distance from heel of first foot to touch ground to the toe of last foot to touch the ground. Used with gallops and bounding strides. Group length increases with speed.
Intergroup Distance between two groups. Used with gallops and bounding strides. Intergroup length increases with speed.


Bound Both hind feet hit the ground at the same time. Rabbits, small rodents, and some weasels have bounding gaits.
Diagonal Stride Alternating left and right tracks. Humans, canines, felines, and ungulates all have a diagonal stride when walking and trotting.
Walk Normal walking stride. In most animals with a diagonal stride, the hind foot registers directly on the front track in a walk.
Amble A fast walk. The hind foot oversteps the front foot.
Trot Between a walk and a gallop in speed. Hind foot registers directly on front food. A common and efficient gait of a red fox (or other canines) making its rounds.
Lope A slow gallop. The hind feet overlap the front feet, usually in a F-H-F-H pattern.
Gallop A fast gait where the hind feet extend beyond the front feet in a F-F-H-H pattern. See rotagallop and transverse gallop for typical patterns.
Rotagallop A gallop with a shallow C pattern.
Transverse gallop A gallop with a Z pattern.

Foot Structure

Digits Toes.
Interdigital pad Main pad around which the digits (toes) are arranged. Some animals also have a small proximal pad.
Toe numbering Toes are numbered from inside out. Our thumb is toe 1, our index finger is toe 2, etc. In 4-toed tracks (e.g., canines and felines) toe 1 does not register. In 2-toed tracks (e.g., ungulates), you see toe 3 and 4 -- toe 1 is missing and the dew claws are toes 2 and 5.
Bird toe numbering The toe pointing back is toe 1 (though it may not show in the tracks of some birds). Most birds show toes 2, 3, and 4.