10 Animals Who Are Unlikely Herbivores

By Joyce Chepkemoi on April 25 2017 in Environment

The elephant, the largest terrestrial mammal on Earth, is a herbivore.
The elephant, the largest terrestrial mammal on Earth, is a herbivore.

Herbivores are animals or insects who feed on vegetation such as leaves, grasses, roots, fruits, bulbs, leaves, and vegetables. Herbivores have teeth that have been adapted to easily break down vegetable tissue. Although there are a number of herbivorous animals who will occasionally eat meat, many lack the ability to chew or digest it and therefore do not.

The diets of herbivorous animals varies based on climate, geographic location, and time of year. In the animal kingdom, being a herbivore comes from its own advantages. Unlike carnivores, herbivores do not have to hunt their food in order to consume it, although some plants do have defence mechanisms that prevent themselves in the form of thorns or poison.

Although there are technically more herbivores living in the world than carnivores, it can come as a surprise to see which animals are in fact herbivores, as many of tend to be colossal in size, have a reputation for violence, or would otherwise appear to be hunters.

10. Beaver

Beavers are large semi-aquatic rodents from the genus Castor that are primarily nocturnal. Castor comprises of two species: the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) and the North American beaver (Castor Canadensis) who are both native to their respective regions. Beavers are some of the largest rodents in the world - they rank second only after the capybara. They are famous for the large dams that they construct and inhabit. Beavers are herbivorous animals who mainly consume pondweed, water-lilies, and wood from birch, maple, alder, cherry, willow, quaking aspen, and cottonwood trees.

9. Capybara

Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) is the world's largest rodent. The rodent is a member of the Hydrochoerus genus with lesser capybara as the only other extant species. Rock calves and guinea pigs are closely related to the rodent and distantly to the chinchillas, coypu, and the agouti. The Capybara is a social species that live in groups of 10 or 20 around dense forests and savannahs. They are native to South America and mainly feed on grass, fruits, aquatic plants and the bark of trees.

8. Camel

Members of the genus Camelus, camels are even-toed ungulates who bear distinctive fatty deposits on their backs known as humps. There are three surviving species of camels in the world today namely the Bactrian, the dromedary, and the wild Bactrian. The Bactrian camel is two-humped and is mostly found in Central Asia. The dromedary is a one-humped camel mostly found in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, while the wild Bactrian camel is critically endangered and is found in limited populations throughout Mongolia and northwest China. The dromedary and Bactrian camels are widely domesticated. Camels are herbivores, their main diet consisting of thorny plants.

7. Elephant

Elephants are members of the Elephantidae family and are found in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Elephants are the only surviving members of the order Proboscidea as other close relatives such as the mammoths, deinotheres, mastodons and gomphotheres are extinct. There are three species of elephants that are recognized: the African forest elephant, the African bush elephant, and the Asian elephant. Elephants are herbivorous animals who consume small plants, bushes, fruit, twigs, tree bark, and roots.

6. Rhinoceros

Commonly called "rhinos", rhinoceroses are the second largest land mammals in the world (after elephants). There are five species of rhinos; two are native to Africa and three are found in Asia. The Asian rhinos comprise of the Javan rhino with one horn, the Sumatran who has two horns and the Indian rhino, also known as the great one-horned rhinoceros. The African rhinos include the black and the white rhinoceros. Rhinoceroses are herbivores. White rhinos have square-shaped lips, making them very suited to grass grazing. The other rhinoceros species prefer to eat the foliage of bushes or trees.

5. Rabbit

A rabbit is a small mammal belonging to the Leporidae family and Lagomorpha order. They are found in most places around the world. In the Leporidae family, rabbits exist in eight different genera. Most rabbits live in forests, deserts, wetlands, woods, grasslands and meadows. Rabbits are herbivorous animals whose diet mainly consists of leafy weeds and grass.

4. Horse

Horse (Equus ferus caballus) is an odd-toed ungulate mammal belonging to the family Equidae. The domestication of horses by human beings began around 4000 BC, and their domestication was already widespread by 3000 BC. Horses are herbivores who typically eat grass. However domesticated horses are often fed oats, bran, barley and hay.

3. Giraffe

Giraffes are from the genus Giraffa. They are the tallest living terrestrial animals in the world. The Giraffa genus comprises of 11 species or more including Giraffa cameldopardalis, which is the scientific name for giraffes. Seven species of the Giraffa genus are already extinct. Giraffes feed only on plants. Their long necks allow for them to reach the branches, buds, and leaves of acacia and mimosa trees. Giraffes can eat hundreds of pounds of leaves per week. Even though these animals eat a lot, Giraffes can go for weeks at a time without drinking water as they get most of their moisture from the vegetation they consume.

2. Manatee

Manatees are large aquatic mammals who have egg-shaped heads, flippers, and a flat tail. They are also sometimes known as "sea cows". The manatees are members of the genus Trichechus of the family Trichechidae. They can be found living in shallow waters, including saltwater bays, canals, and slow-moving rivers. They tend to migrate. Manatees, much like their "land cow" equivalent, follow a herbivorous diet that mainly consists of floating or submerged vegetation.

1. American bison

The American bison (Bison bison) is also commonly known as the "American buffalo" or simply just "buffalo". Although nearly deemed extinct in the 19th century, bison populations have made a comeback in population although this has mostly been restricted to national parks and protected areas. Bison feed on low growing grass, and are known to graze as they walk.

More in Environment