I heard a movie description

With the reindeer's legs churning, they fly directly toward the moon.

Can a galloping/running ungulate be described as "legs churning"? Or did I hear it wrong? I don't think it's journeying either, because a person journeys, not legs. I am putting the audio clip here (uploaded to an audio sharing site Clyp) for reference.

Also what are other verbs that describe the legs of a galloping four-legged animal like shown in this pic?

enter image description here

  • One (somewhat figurative) definition of "churn" is "to move (something) vigorously", so it works fine here.
    – Andrew
    Mar 14, 2018 at 2:17

2 Answers 2


I found that Merriam-Webster's definition of churn includes in one entry:

intransitive verb
1 : to work a churn (as in making butter)
2 a : to produce, proceed with, or experience violent motion or agitation · her stomach was churning · churning legs
b : to proceed by or as if by means of rotating members (such as wheels or propellers) · boats churning across the harbor

This was the first result in a Google search for legs churning; other results seem to show this phrase in common use particularly to refer to cyclists …


Think about the leg motion of a four legged animal. Their legs move almost in a circular motion. Churning is a way to describe a circular motion. Certainly it can be used to describe the motion of an animals legs. I haven't personally heard that used, but it makes sense in the context.

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