Flexion/extension moment arms were obtained for the major muscles crossing the hip, knee and ankle joints in the orang-utan, gibbon, gorilla (Eastern and Western lowland) and bonobo. Moment arms varied with joint motion and were generally longer in proximal limb muscles than distal limb muscles. The shape of the moment arm curves (i.e. the plots of moment arm against joint angle) differed in different hindlimb muscles and in the same muscle in different subjects (both in the same and in different ape species). Most moment arms increased with increasing joint flexion, a finding which may be understood in the context of the employment of flexed postures by most non-human apes (except orang-utans) during both terrestrial and arboreal locomotion. When compared with humans, non-human great apes tended to have muscles better designed for moving the joints through large ranges. This was particularly true of the pedal digital flexors in orang-utans. In gibbons, the only lesser ape studied here, many of the moment arms measured were relatively short compared with those of great apes. This study was performed on a small sample of apes and thus differences noted here warrant further investigation in larger populations.