ANIMALS THAT EAT ONLY PLANTS

Written by: Akeem Eletu

Unlike omnivores that eat both plants and meat, herbivores eat only plants. There are many different plants that herbivores include in their diet. Some animals eat only a portion of a plant, while others indulge all of it. 

This article presents you with a list of strict herbivores: animals that eat only plants. 

ANIMALS THAT EAT ONLY PLANTS

Many herbivores are picky eaters and only eat specific plants. They spend time wandering for their choice plants. 

Others are indiscriminate grazers and only discriminate if they taste a poisonous plant. They equate green with food. The following are some herbivorous animals that depend on  plants for daily meals.

GOATS

The notion that “goats eat anything” is inaccurate. Goats are picky eaters, and love to explore their surroundings. They have a reputation for eating nearly anything because they often wander to sample plants. 

Unlike cows or sheep, they roam and examine various foods rather than grazing at a pasture. Goats eat hay, grass, and weed. Most of a domestic goat’s diet is roughage,  typically grass or hay that is primarily heavy and rich in fiber but low in calories. 

Wild goats eat grass.  They devour almost any vegetation they encounter, especially  mountain goats who consider themselves lucky any time they find a fleshy and juicy shrub near rocks. 

But for the most part, goats sample the plant first to see if they like it. 

SHEEP

Sheep are strict herbivores. They eat plants, grasses, legumes, and flowers. They may only live on grass, specifically ryegrass and timothy, which allows them to be self-sufficient during the summer.  

Like cows, sheep are ruminants: their digestive systems are efficient enough to break down the plant matter they consume. They have stomachs with four chambers, and they always regurgitate the grass they chew.

They digest the cud with the aid of microbial activities in their stomachs which allows them to obtain nutrients from plants that would otherwise be of little nutritional value to them.

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DONKEYS

Eating hay, or haylage, is about 50% of a donkey’s diet. For most of the year, grass combined with straw is the ideal meal for a donkey. During the winter or colder months, donkeys prefer to consume hay or haylage. 

Grass hay is low in protein which is excellent for a donkey’s diet and great for its teeth.

Donkeys eat a diet of less-than-nutritious woody plants and bushes since they live in the desert. Their digestive systems can quickly break down and extract nutrients from anything they eat, letting them thrive in such environments.

HORSES

Horses are herbivores. They love grass. Eating grass is one way for horses to survive, especially wild horses, where they can stay hydrated by eating plants. They can go days without water in some cases when they eat a lot of high moisture content vegetation.

Surprisingly, even woody-looking plants and shrubs contain fluid for a wild horse. 

Horses also eat fruits, especially apples. But grass cannot be replaced with fruits in their diet.

GIRAFFES

Giraffes enjoy acacia tree leaves (both wild and domesticated). The acacia tree has sharp thorns mingled with the leaves, hindering other animals from eating it. But the giraffes can weave through the thorns with their long tongues. 

While they eat acacia leaves regularly, they also eat blossoms when they are in season. There is twice as much tannin in the blossoms than protein.

Female giraffes eat more herbs than male ones do, and the female giraffe’s diet is higher in nutrients than the male diet, which is heavier in fiber and lignin. This distinction may explain why females produce offspring during the dry season when food is scarce.

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CAMELS

These hardy beasts eat grass, and drink a lot of water. Like every other herbivore, they eat grass, grains, wheat, and oats. Camels spend most of their day grazing for food. 

Their natural habitat is the desert, and food is scarce in that environment. They do not have many food options, so they fall within the category of grazers rather than browsers. They eat whatever they come by, be it dried bushes or leaves. 

But domestic camels eat wheat, dates, vegetables, fruits, and both fresh and dry types of grass. Camels have robust mouths that can endure thorns and consume various plants.

ZEBRAS

Zebras are herbivores, They only eat plants. Zebras prefer green, short grass, but they will eat any grass if necessary. Grass is nearly 90 percent of their diet. They also consume leaves and twigs, and some zebras feed on herbs and plants, especially when there is no grass.

Many zebra species live in desert climates where rain is sparse. Their stomachs have evolved to digest coarser, more fibrous plant matter and convert it more efficiently into energy. But many other animals in the savannah cannot digest these sorts of grass.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Most herbivores have digestive systems designed to help them get the most out of the plants they eat.  Some freshwater fish species are also herbivores, depending mainly on the plant matter in their habitats. 

So whenever you think about animals that eat only plants, this list should replace the omnivores that readily come to mind.

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