Nutrition in Animals

Digestion in Ruminants

Did you know that ruminants such as the cow, cattle, deer and their peers have a four-chambered stomach to digest the material they eat? You must have observed cows sitting by the road continuously chewing on grass. They are able to digest even the difficult to digest materials like cellulose. Ever wondered how are they able to do that? Let’s learn more about how ruminants digest their food.

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Rumination – A Special Type of Digestion


You must have noticed the grass eating aminals continuously chewing their food even when they are not eating. They have a special part in their stomach called the rumen. Here, they store the food that they eat, where digestion takes place to form “cud”. This cud returns as small lumps to the mouth from time to time on which the animal chews on. This entire process is called rumination and such animals are known as ruminants.

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Digestive System of Ruminants

Ruminants have a very special type of digestive system. A four-chambered stomach is a peculiar characteristic of these animals. Let’s know more about it. The main components of  their digestive system include:

  • Mouth: The mouth lacks any enzymes and just chews as well as softens the food.
  • Esophagus: It directs the movement from mouth to the rumen.
  • Rumen: This is the part that distinguishes the ruminants from others. It is a large sac-like structure that is present in between the oesophagus and the small intestine. Food is stored here temporarily after which it returns to the mouth for chewing. It returns to the mouth by a process called antiperistalsis.You can see the ruminant lying down quietly and chewing on the cud. The food then passes down to the reticulum after getting chewed
  • Reticulum: The bacteria present here ferment the food.It separates finely ground material from coarse ones as well as retains the hard pieces of wood.
  • Omasum: It has parallel leaf-like components with rough surfaces. It is mainly responsible for absorption of water. Food gets ground more finely
  • Abomasum:  Breakdown of proteins takes place here with the help of enzymes. It passes on to the small intestine where rest of the digestion takes place just like humans.

What are the special features do the ruminants have that humans don’t?

  • A four-chambered stomach
  • Presence of rumen
  • Saliva doesn’t contain any enzymes
  • Digestion and absorption mainly occurs in stomach
  • Can digest cellulose

Questions For You

Q1. What do we call the partially digested food in case of ruminants?

a. Bud               b. Cud

c. Rumen         d. Ruminant

Ans. Cud. The ruminant stores the food that it eats in the specialized part of the stomach called rumen. Here, digestion takes place to form “cud”. Cud is basically partially digested food material.

Q2. The cud is brought back to the mouth during digestion in ruminants.What do we call this process?

a. Ingestion             b. Regurgitation

c. Egestion              d. Absorption

Ans. Regurgitation. The cud in the form of small lumps regurgitates back to the ruminant’s mouth to further chew on it.

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