Do Penguins Have Knees?

Do penguins have knees? Looking at a penguin, this is one of the first questions to arise in a person’s mind. There is a simple reason behind this, penguins are often seen while standing or walking on snow and this can give an illusion that they don’t have knees.

But nothing can be further from the truth, penguins actually do have knees! The only difference is that the knees are hidden behind a layer of feathers and fur that helps the penguins to keep warm while swimming in cold water or while standing on land.

Many people wonder if penguins have knees because of the strange walk of the penguins. This is because penguins are aquatic animals and the land is not their primary domain which is why their walk looks awkward and uncoordinated. The knees are also hidden because penguins have small legs and the cold temperatures of the Antarctic region make a layer of fat and feathers a necessity for surviving the harsh weather.

What Do the Penguin Knees Look Like?

penguin skeleton
penguin skeleton
Penguins knees
Yes, yes indeed – penguins do have knees.

Penguins have short legs that allow them to stand upright and walk with a waddling motion. The femur, knee, tibia, and fibula are the bones that make up the penguin’s leg. The lower region of the penguin’s body is covered with feathers which gives the penguin’s body a short and stubby appearance. According to scientists and marine biologists, penguins spend more energy on walking than other birds because of their heavy mass and short legs.

This is also the reason why penguins find it harder to walk on land, and they make do with a sort of waddle or hopping motion. The legs also look short and stubby because they are covered with feathers in the top part. But under the feathers, penguins have functional knees that are useful for their survival and movement in water or on land. But in water, the strong legs combined with their flippers give them wonderful swimming abilities.

How Do Penguin Knees Function?

Penguins apparently do have knees

Even though penguin knees are mostly hidden under their body fat, these are highly functional and penguins use their knees for a wide range of motion activities on land and in water.

Penguins bend their knees and straighten them to get the power needed to move whether in water or sliding on ice and snow

While they are standing inland or swimming in the water, the natural position of the knees is tucked in close to the body. This is also why it looks like penguins have short legs as knees are not highly visible because they are tucked in close to their bodies all the time.

What Do Penguins Use Their Knees For?

From waddling on snow-covered shores to swimming deeper into the frigid waters, penguins make use of their knees to propel themselves on land and in water. When it comes to snowy banks, penguins are also known to slide by using their knees as a means of propulsion.

Male penguins also incubate and take care of the eggs laid by the female by balancing the egg on their toes and holding them close with their knees. Penguins are also able to lower themselves on the egg by bending their knees and giving the egg the warmth it needs.


If you have ever seen a penguin waddle on snow you might have asked yourself, do penguins have knees? Well, now you have the answer. Yes, they, of course, have knees and they use their knees for the various purposes we have mentioned in this article. While their knees might not be highly developed and visible, penguins make full use of the explosive propulsion provided by their knees to move quickly in water and on land.

So, the next time you see a penguin waddle, remember, it’s not because penguins don’t have knees, but it’s because they have really short legs and they are mostly aquatic mammals. Interested in learning more about penguins? Feel free to browse through this website.

In case you have any questions or queries regarding penguins, please leave a comment and we’ll do our best to answer your questions.


Do Penguins Have Knees?



Image source:

  1. Penguins Skeleton by Michael / CC BY
  2. penguin knees by H. Zell / CC BY

I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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