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The ability of the cat's ankle joint to track various input signals when controlled by electrically elicited motor unit recruitment, firing rate and antagonist muscle coactivation was examined. Pseudo-random, sinusoidal and staircase signals were used to control the soleus and tibialis anterior muscles isometrically and with a 250-g pendulum. Tracking was evaluated through cross correlation for pseudo-random and sinusoidal signals, and by rise time and steady-state error in step signals. Better tracking was obtained in isometric conditions than in load-moving conditions. Pseudo-random signals resulted in 250-ms delay between input and isometric torque output. For load-moving conditions, 340-ms and 400-ms delay in torque and angle were obtained. For sinusoids, delays decreased from 240 ms at 0.5 Hz, to 140 ms at 2 Hz in isometric conditions. Time delays for angle were between 300 and 400 ms, decreasing as frequency increased. Poor cross correlation was found for torque in load-moving conditions, because of pendulum nonlinear dynamics. Step size was not uniform in staircase trials, with steady-state errors between 9% and 39%, and rise times between 200 and 1000 ms. It is concluded that open-loop joint control results in poor tracking, presumably because it is devoid of feedback mechanisms.