I think they do. The Legged Robotics Team at ETH Zurich’s Autonomous Systems Lab started by trying to figure out how to reverse engineer a similar (but more trainable) creature, the dog.
Even though I think most Technovelgy readers are familiar with the advanced work done in this field by the American firm Boston Robotics, which created the BigDog robot, I think you'll like the analysis done in the legged robot video below.
(Legged robot research at ETH Zurich)
This projects aims towards the design and construction of an energy efficient robotic quadruped that is capable of various dynamic motions including fast walking, trotting, bounding, and galloping. The primary focus is the production of an actual mechanical prototype. The prototype and the associated control strategies will be developed so as to maximize dynamic performance while minimizing energy consumption. In particular, to make the system as energy efficient as possible, we intend to exploit natural, or passive, dynamics in ways that have been the focus of significant previous research and shown themselves to be effective in bipedal robots. The extension of the concept of passive dynamics to quadrupedal robots, and more importantly the actual realization of such a system, has to date received very little attention by other researchers. The principal parts of the project are:
Developing simulation capabilities to aid design calculations and evaluate controller performance.
The development of fundamentally new control strategies that incorporate the advantageous haracteristics of passive dynamics into an optimal controller with deadbeat attitude feedback.
Designing, fabricating, and testing a mechanical prototype to evaluate controller stability, robustness, and performance.
Few animals survive in the future world of Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. For status, many people have mechanical animals that are perfect mimics of their organic predecessors:
He ascended … to the covered pasture whereon his electric sheep "grazed." Whereon it, sophisticated piece of hardware that it was, chomped away in simulated contentment, bamboozling the other tenants of the building.
(Read more about Philip K. Dick's electric sheep)