Rab­bits eat grass and have hard poo; horses and cows have sloppy poo. Why?

Asked by Laura Young

Guru Magazine - - Ask A Guru - An­swered by Lucy Huang

While the rab­bit, cow, and horse all have dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent di­ges­tive sys­tems, the rab­bit dif­fers be­cause it is re­quired to ‘di­gest’ its food twice – they eat, poop, eat the poop and poop again. This is known as co­propha­gia. The first round of poo is very wet. But af­ter they di­gest the food for the sec­ond time, it is dry – so they poo out pel­lets. Cows and horses do not have to eat their poo be­cause they have other means of break­ing down veg­e­ta­tion. Cows have very large, mul­ti­ple-cham­bered stom­achs that con­tain bac­te­ria to help them break down the plant parts first time. The horse and the rab­bit both have fer­ment­ing bac­te­ria in their hindgut to help di­gest the fi­bre (cel­lu­lose) from plant mat­ter. But be­cause the rab­bit’s in­testi­nal tract is much shorter than that of the horse, it does not ab­sorb nu­tri­ents as ef­fi­ciently in one trip and thus needs to re-di­gest its food for a sec­ond time.

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