In our study, characteristics that are considered unfavourable for performing gait analysis in sheep, such as flight zone and flocking behaviour , were reduced by training, as has been previously reported , and with the same halter when inducing the animals to walk on a pressure-sensing walkway. Another important strategy was using food to motivate the sheep to traverse the pressure-sensing walkway in a straight line. Moreover, the body mass (mean 33.10 kg, range 19.5-45.0 kg, comparable to that of a large-sized dog) of the sheep used in our study facilitated handling.
Although sheep reach sexual maturity at approximately 7–12 months of age, depending on the breed, the closure of the physeal plates of the long bones may occur as late as 36 months . Thus, it is important to evaluate sheep of different ages, as in the present study, when evaluating skeletal growth.
Velocity measurements obtained by photoelectric cells and measurements from pressure-sensing walkway have been shown to be similar . For this reason, only the latter measurement method was used. The designated software calculated the velocity by dividing the distance between consecutive foot strikes by the time between them [7, 10, 21]. The velocity used, 1.1-1.3 m/s, was considered comfortable for the sheep. The mean velocity used in a study assessing healthy sheep walking on a pressure-sensing walkway was 1.06 m/s . In healthy dogs, the walking velocity on the same or similar type of pressure-sensing walkway has been reported to range from 0.5 to 1.14 m/s, depending on body sizes [10, 21–24]. For healthy cats, the mean velocity has been reported to range from 0.6 to 0.81 m/s [25–27].
The duty factor in this study was >0.5, with a mean of 0.58 for the forelimbs and a mean of 0.61 for the hind limbs. In a study of healthy Suffolk-mix sheep, the duty factors were 0.66 and 0.69 for the forelimbs and hind limbs, respectively . As has been reported previously , these values suggest a walking speed, as a duty factor >0.5 in the hind limbs is indicative of walking and a factor <0.5 is indicative of trotting or running .
Velocity and acceleration must be controlled because of their influence over the stance time, which is associated with the VI [2, 10, 29]. Studies of dogs have reported that velocity variations of 0.3 m/s may modify the ground reaction forces; as the velocity increased, the PVF increased and the VI decreased [4, 30]. In the present study, the velocity was similar among the groups and had a mean value of 1.17 m/s (SD 0.02). In another sheep study, the mean velocity was 1.06 m/s, but the velocity varied from 0.57 to 1.49 m/s in the forelimbs and from 0.57 to 1.76 m/s in the hind limbs .
The two directions in which the sheep walked on the pressure-sensing walkway did not show significant differences, suggesting that the side of the handler did not interfere with the values. The direction of locomotion relative to the camera did not influence any of the temporospatial or kinetic parameters evaluated in a prior sheep study .
In humans, the gait of children is different from that of adults. Characteristics such as the cycle time, stride length and velocity change with growth . In this study, no differences were detected in the temporospatial parameters among the groups, but the sheep moved at the same velocity. Stride length is diminished in healthy elderly humans [2, 31]. This finding was not observed in Group 3, probably because the animals were younger adults. Sheep life expectancy has been reported to be approximately 10 to 12 years .
In addition, a relationship between stride length and height has been found in humans . No stride length differences were found among the groups in our study, although the G1 animals had shorter limbs than those in other groups. The 8.2 cm and 6.7 cm disparities in the forelimbs and hind limbs, respectively, may not have been sufficient to cause detectable temporospatial differences. Additionally, a kinematic study of horses found that the duration of stance and stride in foals can be normalised using linear or dynamic scaling by the height at the withers and used to predict the values observed in adulthood. However, the height at the withers of the foals had increased by 30 cm when they reached adulthood .
In general, the stance and swing phases account for approximately 60% and 40%, respectively, of the gait cycle in healthy humans . In the present study, the distribution was 58.86% stance phase and 41.49% swing phase for the forelimbs versus 61.88% stance phase and 38.85% swing phase for the hind limbs. Another study of sheep reported a mean of 66.31% for the forelimbs and 68.89% for the hind limbs in stance phase and 33.69% for the forelimbs and 31.11% for the hind limbs in swing phase .
The walking PVI (%BW) is generally higher for the forelimbs than the hind limbs when measured using a pressure-sensitive walkway [10, 19, 22, 26, 34]. Although this finding is consistent with the results from all of the groups in our study (mean values of 47.35% for the forelimbs and 28.58% for hind limbs), the values showed some variations compared to previous studies of healthy sheep (means of 52.52% and 38.52% for the forelimbs and hind limbs, respectively) , healthy dogs (means of 58.11% and 42.30% for the forelimbs and hind limbs, respectively) , and healthy cats (means of 48.2% and 38.3% for the forelimbs and hind limbs, respectively) .
The differences in velocity and calibration  and the animal species in question may have contributed to these differences in reported values. Differences in the calibration protocol may influence the number of activated sensors and result in differing readings [14, 26, 35]. In the present study, the calibration was performed according to the manufacturer’s guidelines using a phantom (a short three-legged stool). Weight was added to the stool to match the weight of each animal, and hard rubber was attached to the bottom of the feet of the stool to mimic a sheep’s hoof. Few studies have specified which methods were used to calibrate their pressure-sensitive walkways [7, 11, 14, 26], which may explain the different measurements. In a study that evaluated vertical limb forces in dogs at a trotting velocity, for example, a 65 kg human subject placed one foot on the mat for calibration . In a kinetic evaluation of cats, the mat was calibrated by having a 50 kg human subject stand on it with both bare feet .
The body weight distribution among the limbs of healthy sheep and dogs during walking has been described as approximately 30% on each forelimb and 20% on each hind limb [19, 36]. Similar values were observed in our study, with 31.34% of the body weight placed on each forelimb and 18.79% placed on each hind limb.
In a study of healthy dogs walking on a force plate, the peak vertical forces were inversely correlated with physical size . A similar correlation was observed in the present study for the forelimbs (R = −0.57) and hind limbs (R = −0.44) Thus, the PFV values for the forelimbs and hind limbs were greater in Group 1 than in Group 3, with Group 3 being composed of larger sheep. Although body size of the Group 2 was similar to Group 3, no significant PFV differences were observed. Furthermore, the relative velocity was greater in Group 1 than in Group 3, which may have contributed to the differences in the PVF values.
However, the VI of the forelimbs was higher in the G1 animals than in the G2 animals. The velocity may influence the stance time and consequently the VI , as the impulse reflects the association between force and the time that the foot is on the ground . As a constant velocity was maintained in our study and as the stance time was statistically indistinguishable among the groups, the differences were associated with the different forces. These results are in contrast with those from another canine study in which the VI increased as the size of the dog increased , probably due to differences in velocity and individual dog size.