"Family That Walks on All Fours"


We (my lovely and talented wife and I) have been watching a lot of Masterpiece Theater lately. Actually, by "we" I mostly mean that she has been watching a lot of Masterpiece Theater and I have been sitting near her and occasionally sighing heavily in the hopes that (a) she will either yield the TiVo remote or that (b) she will become so irritated with me that she will end my life. Either one works for me. I like Masterpiece theater, but there's only so much historical English drama, Victorian or otherwise, that a man can take. It turns out she opted for ©, commonly referred to as "shut it," and I now have in my memory far, far too much information about a certain Edmond Talbot and a Lady Dedlock.

I have managed to salvage some satisfaction, though, in the form of a sense of smug superiority over lesser, non-PBS watching mortals. For example, friends will ask, "Hey, did you see what happened to the fat guy on the island Sunday night?" And I'll sniff haughtily and reply, in my best, worst British accent, "That? No, of course not, Sir." I barely repress a sneer. "I was watching Masterpiece Theater." And they skulk away, defeated. Edmond would be proud.

I'm more of a NOVA kind of guy.

When I first heard of the NOVA program Family That Walks on All Fours, I thought it was a romantic title for a documentary about apes. I like the apes. In fact, it's about a family, a human family, with children who walk on all fours. Literally.

At first we called shenanigans. "I call shenanigans," we said simultaneously. I immediately thought of the Monty Python "Silly Walks" sketch. I meean, what could possibly be preventing these people from straightening their backs? At the risk of spoiling it for you, it isn't shenanigans. The children are the apparent victims of a genetic defect that resulted in a shrunken cerebellum (affecting balance) and an environment and culture that prevented them from receiving any treatment when their condition began to manifest itself in their first year. Until the scientific community descended on them in the search for a genetic, evolutionary link to our ancient ancestors, no one even thought to give them a walker.

You really get to feel for these kids, the family, and the plight they are in. Happy ending though. Hopeful, anyway. And there's a lot more to it. It really is a fascinating story and an interesting glimpse into how difficult and time consuming it is to figure out what our genes really do. Oh, and there's a two-legged dog that walks upright. Check it out. That is, if you can tear yourself away from Masterpiece Theater.


Hello I am glad to know that science had actually found people that walks on all fours. I am interested in seeing this program again though because the time I was going to watch it I had missed it so I would like to see it again. to me it is interesting because it shows something diferent than what the scientist tell us. now I do not believe that we are from apes and I have no intention of believing it but what I do believe is that God the great creator made them but maybe during the great fall from adam some of them had started to walk on all fours I do believe that is possible but I really would like to see it again though it was interesting the parts that I did see. well thank you for your time and have a blessed day.

I found this story compelling and compasionate. I agreed with the doctor that found the theory of 'reverse evolution' insulting to the family (and scientifically incorrect). Small cerebellum: This area does much more than control balance. I wondered what the cerebellums of the upright members of the family looked like in comparison. As far as balance, I would be dizzy too, if I walked on all fours most of my life and then tried to stand up. Postural hypotension could be one explanation. These folks were certainly afflected with developmental delays in many areas, that hadn't been addressed. A good piece, all things considered.

I loved it was so fasinating when i first saw it, it was kind of scary becouse, u know how people first are when we see something new it different there fore its scary and frightens us but when we get to know more about what were looking at it realy intregs us i enjoyed it so much i realy like nove it's a very good show

When Can I see The Family That Walked on All Fours again?

What a fascinating program. It is so wonderful that scientists are looking seriously at the reasons for differing genetic anomalies. I would like to read a book telling about genetic anomalies all around the world and what is known about them. With newly developed genome information we may be on the verge of discovering the reasons for these mutations. Wonderful!!

Leora Stutes, 8 am November 26, 2006

to read a book telling about genetic anomalies all around the world...
Here is a semi-popular overview from an essential biological perspective: Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body, 2003, Armand Leroi.

compassionate. It went over the scientific facts and theories to the human spirit of love and affection. Afterall the scince and explanations they could find, nothing seemed as spectacular as seeing the oldest son walk on two feet. that really made me cry. I wish I could do something for that family. Shoes, medical supplies, something even for their dog. Loved the show even when it is a very sad story.

hey im a student im RCHS(rensselaer central high school)im 16 and this movie is very educating and very cool i never new that people walk on all fours like that i didnt not know that things like taht were possible.i was moved whene they ended up^ walking...i was so happy...but are they walking normal still.....i think you need to make a sequel to a new one so we can see how they are doing...
thank you for your time...
kristie welch

"Family that walks on all fours"
I would like to know when will
it air again.
I caught the end and it seemed very


"Family that Walks..."--What a fabulous program! Although I was interested to learn that the a shrunken cerebellum affects balance, I thought along different lines.

First, there were 7 children born within 5 years. Did anyone think that reduced parnutrition contributed to the defects?

Second, there was obviously a reduced amount of breast feeding for the children during this 5 year period. Four who were born during the 5 year period were affected by the balance affliction.

Reasoning, now: the afflicted offspring range in age from 18-34 (at the time of recording/original broadcast); too large an age range to think that nutrition during/after pregnancy played a large role.

Therefore, maternal and infant nutrition may not play a large role with the balance problem.

However, the children who were affected all crawled normally. With the remoteness of the village, is it possible that each of the afflicted children acquired an inner ear infection that was NOT treated?

Inner ear infections can cause loss of balance. Is it possible that an ear infection during the first year of life, in conjunction with the shrunken cerebellum, caused the loss of balance in this family, rather than the theory of deevolution?

hint: to diagnose an ear infection in infants/toddlers, watch the child: if the child is tugging on their ear, it's a good bet the kid has an ear infection.

this show fascinated me, because i was in India less than a month ago and I saw a man, probably in his 20's and a young boy who couldn't have been more than 5 yrs. old walking just like this. I was a medic in the US Army and I've been to over a dozen countries. I've never been taught anything even close to this, so I assumed they had some jacked up form of polio or something. I had no idea. I think it was outside of the Taj Majal, but i'm not for sure because we vistited so many places. But I will never forget this guy and this tiny little boy on all fours begging for money though. If there are any scientist or anything that want to find out where these guys are at i could definitely find out because there were about 10 people with me, i just can't think of it off the top of my head. I just know that I felt horrible for all of the beggers in India, but that man and that boy on all fours i will never forget 4 the rest of my life. nickhornig@yahoo.com

Sorry, I don't have a web address, but I thought, Family That Walks On All Fours was very Interesting to watch. Kind of made me feel sorry for them. Has to be some genetic thing they have. It's was Sad to see them in that condition and to have people make fun of them. After all, God made us ALL and they can't help being the way they are. Loved the show alot! We're all Human, after all.

By Mike 4:43AM Sunday 27 Jan. 2008

The first time I saw this program I was taking a course called "Cultural Anthropology" and I told my professor about it. I found it fascinating. Is there a way a person can get a video or DVD copy of it? I would like to give my professor a copy. Oh, by the way, I passed the course with a "B". So, you see, it wouldn't be a bribe. Smile.

Well done! Well paced, good story with substanance, balanced with oposing opinions. Female narator's voice was clear, did not speak too quickly, and easy to understand. No adverse special effects (noises or camera wiggling). Excellent. A model Nova program. Please follow up in a year or so to see what has developed in the technology and their physical therapy.

I've been told of your NOVA program called "Family That Walks on All Fours" and would love to have you air it on one of our Denver PBS Channels (6 or 12). Is that a possibility?

Is there a continuing documentary of the "Family That Walks on All fours?"

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