Chapter 3. Animal anatomy

Table of Contents

Paws and hind legs

Drawing anthros isn't easy. Not only should the artist be able to draw the human figure, he or she must also be proficient at drawing different animal species. If you have been practicing the material from the previous chapters, this should be much easier:

Human and animal skeletons

Figure 3.1. Human and animal skeletons

Here's a comparison between a generic four-legged animal, and a human standing on his toes and fingertips. The bone structure is almost the same. The muscle groups are also very similar, so we will use the same color codes as in the chapter about human anatomy.

(All drawings in this chapter are referenced from [Gold], [Ell], life, and photographs)


Once you can draw the members of the canine family, you've got 70% of the fandom covered already. Here we will look at the family in general, and the characteristic differences between wolves, foxes, and a few domestic dogs.


We'll show the canine body in somewhat more detail than the other species. The idea is that all quadrupeds have the same body structure, and we'll just have to highlight the differences for felines and equines.

Canine skeleton

Figure 3.2. Canine skeleton

Canine musculature

Figure 3.3. Canine musculature

(TODO: text)


I'm going to base the head off a ball, just like the one you saw in the first chapter. To indicate the muzzle, I also hotglue a box shape to it. Well not really a box, more a clipped pyramid. A dog's muzzle is wider near the back than at the front, so it's a better fit.

Canine head structure

Figure 3.4. Canine head structure

Looking up

Figure 3.5. Looking up

This is a pretty generic dog head, good for huskies and such. For other breeds, you'll have to make a couple of changes. The chihuahua will have a much smaller wedge for the muzzle, while a dachshund is best drawn with a big wedge shape that models almost the whole head.

(TODO: illustrations)

(TODO: foxes and wolves)

Paws and hind legs

Front paw

Figure 3.6. Front paw

On the left we see the underside of a front paw. There are four cushiony pads at the toes (the digital pads), a larger one underneath the knuckles (the metacarpal pad), and a tiny one near the wrist (the carpal pad). There are four claws at the front, and a dewclaw at the end of the thumb. Note that the claws are not at the center of the toes, but on the inside. The two in the middle are very close together.

The illustration next to it shows the bones of the front leg. The dog is standing up, so the toes are bent at nearly 90 degrees. On the right, there's a life drawing of the front leg of a sleeping dog; the toes are more relaxed and straightened out. Notice how the joints and muscles correspond to all kinds of bumps and curves, both in the contour and the shading. If you have the opportunity to study an actual dog, make good use of it! It is easier to see the structure of its legs in real life than on photos.

Remember figure 3.1 at the start of this chapter? Let's zoom in on a dog's paw and a human hand, so you can see the similarities.

Dog paw and human hand compared

Figure 3.7. Dog paw and human hand compared

A dog's hind paws are almost the same as the front ones. The main difference is that there's no dew claw, or carpal pad. The new challenge here, especially for the artists who like to draw their characters digitigrade, is the hock.

Diagram of the hock

Figure 3.9. Diagram of the hock

Hind leg

Figure 3.10. Hind leg

Here you can see the five paw pads, and a few more studies of hind legs. Again, the light and shadow areas are formed by the underlying anatomy. See if you can find the Achilles tendon, the ankle, and the outer metatarsal.