Plants are the most delicious!

Herb comes from a Latin word for plant. So, an animal that eats plants is an herbivore.

Hoofstock like cows, giraffe, deer, and wildebeest are all herbivores, and so are rabbits, squirrels, elephants, and many other animals.

Have you ever chewed on a blade of grass? Was it hard to chew up? Plants are protected by tough cellulose fibers that make them difficult for many animals to chew and digest. Herbivores have special adaptations to help them deal with cellulose.

Many herbivores have sharp front teeth, called incisors, to nip off a bite of leaf or stem and strong, grinding cheek teeth, called molars, to break the plant down into pulp.

Once the herbivore swallows the food, its stomach sets to work breaking the plant down to release valuable nutrients. Some herbivores have specially adapted stomachs with extra chambers to really work over tough plant matter.

Some, like cows and giraffes, actually swallow their food more than once! These animals swallow their food, digest it for a while, then bring it back up their throat, chew it again, and re-swallow.  This is called ruminating, or chewing cud. It allows these animals to digest tough plants that most animals couldn’t get any use from.

See other types of eaters by following the links on the right side of the page.

The Sacramento Zoological Society  // 501(c)(3) nonprofit
3930 West Land Park Drive, Sacramento, CA 95822  //  916-808-5888
© 2017 Sacramento Zoo, All Rights Reserved

Sacramento Zoo's home page button