Animals That Eat Only Plants (10 Herbivores Examples)

Animals that eat only plants are called herbivores. Some herbivores will feed mainly on grasses and leafy plants, while others will additionally feed on barks, roots, and fruits. Examples of animals that eat plants include kangaroos, elephants, cows, zebras, and many others.

There are herbivores whose diet is limited to only one type of plant, while others will be able to forage on an assortment of plant life.

Herbivores will generally eat in proportion to their body weight. One can expect that the larger the animal, the more it will consume. However, there are those that will consume large quantities of food due to the nutrient limitations of their diet.

Further, not all herbivores are ruminants. There are single stomach herbivores that have a caecum at the end of their small intestines, used to ferment the high fiber content in some of the plants they feed on.

Without further ado, let us meet animals that eat only plants.

Animals That Eat Only Plants

African Buffalos

group of cape buffalos in the wild

Scientific Name: Syncerus caffer

Class: Mammal

First on our list of animals that eat only plants is the African buffalo, which is found throughout the African continent. It feeds mainly on the grass in different varieties. It is found in 4 sub-species, and the Cape buffalo is the largest and most common of them. It consumes anywhere between 18-45 kg (40-100 lbs) of forage in a day.

Buffalos are a very large species whose weight ranges from 425-870 kg (936-1918 lbs). They, therefore, have high nutritional requirements. They also do not eat much else other than grass, so in order to meet those nutritional needs, they require a lot of it.

Being herbivores also means that they are animals that chew their cud, which is a very crucial part of meeting their nutritional requirements, so the more forage they can graze on, the more cud they can chew. Buffalo belong to the same family as cows and live in community groups called herds.

Zebras

five zebras eating in the wild during daylight

Scientific Name: Equus quagga

Class: Mammal

Another herbivore found in Africa, mainly in the Eastern and Southern parts is the Zebra. Although zebras are herbivores, they are not ruminants, and this affords them a wider variety of plants to feed on such as barks, leaves, buds, roots, and a variety of grasses.

Zebras weigh between 352-450 kg (776-992 lbs) and spend much of their time, 60%-80%, grazing. Their digestive system relies on a cecum (a sac at the end of the small intestines containing symbiotic bacteria) to break down compounds such as cellulose. This digestive system is not as efficient as that of a ruminant.

Although their digestive systems are not efficient, zebras have a high metabolism rate and can consume much more than ruminants when they forage. Additionally, the zebra can survive seasons of drought more easily than other species because they are able to consume a variety of plants, even those lower in nutritional value.

Read Also: Can Carnivores Eat Plants?

Kangaroos

gray kangaroo standing on a green grass

Scientific Name: Macropodidae

Class: Mammal

Kangaroos are almost synonymous with Australia because the largest populations are found there. Kangaroos are animals that mainly eat grass, but they also feed on other plants such as flowers, leaves, mosses, and ferns. They will on occasion chew cud, although this is quite rare as they are not ruminants.

Kangaroos weigh between 35-90 kg (77-198 lbs) depending on the gender. They can spend up to 10 hours per day feeding, depending on the species and weight. Other factors influence their dietary needs such as the fact that kangaroos grow continuously throughout their life.

Another unique influence on their diet, especially for females is based on lactation. They produce different types of milk to feed their young ones in their various stages of development. Female kangaroos are always in one stage of reproduction or another because they are in heat immediately after giving birth, and conception occurs soon after mating.

Elephants

big brown elephant walking on grass

Scientific Name: Loxodonta

Class: Mammal

Elephants are the largest and heaviest land mammal. The African Bush species is the largest of them all and weighs between 2,500-7,000 kg (5,512-15,432 lbs)! They are gentle herd animals, led by the eldest cow. As a strictly herbivorous species, their diet consists of grass, leaves, and fruits.

Elephants both forage and browse for their food. They also migrate from place to place in search of food. They retain their massive bulk by consuming up to 300lbs of food per day. They eat using their trunk almost as humans do, grasping their food and putting it in their mouth.

The elephant is a very crucial part of the African ecosystem. As they migrate, they fell trees and push away fallen logs which consequently creates savanna grasslands. When water is water is scarce, they dig water holes in dry riverbeds with their trunks.

Pandas

black and white panda eating plants

Scientific Name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca

Class: Mammal

Giant pandas are pretty unique bear species, not only due to their physical appearance but also because of their diet. Not many people know that pandas despite being herbivores have a digestive system of carnivores.

However, these fluffy-looking bears are animals that eat bamboo for the most part. In fact, 99% of the panda’s diet is based on bamboo leaves and shoots. And in order to meet their nutritive requirements, they usually eat anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds of bamboo per day.

Also, due to their carnivore digestive systems, the panda’s guts are not as efficient as in other herbivores. So they spend at least 6 hours eating, and when they are not eating, pandas are usually resting to save energy.

Sloths

sloth hanging from a tree

Scientific Name: Folivora

Class: Mammal

The sloth is an unusual three living animal found in tropical rainforests of Central and South America. Today, there are six different sloth species, divided into two genres; three and two-toed sloths.

Both species munch of twigs, leaves, buds, and tender shoots as a bulk of their diet. What’s interesting about these slow creatures is that they need very little food to survive. On average, sloths eat no more than 0.35 kg (0.77 lbs) of food per day.

The reason behind this lies in their slow metabolisms. Sloths have the slowest metabolism among all animals on the planet, and unlike other herbivores, they need a couple of days to process their food.

Beavers

beaver eating on a green grass

Scientific Name: Castor

Class: Mammal

There are two distinct species of beavers. One is native to North America, and the other is found in Europe. Both kinds prefer a similar type of food, including willow, buds, roots, grasses, and also aquatic vegetation, depending on the season.

When there is a lot of plants available (during the summer), beavers eat up to  2 kg (4.4 lbs) of food per day. However, when plants are scarce (during the winter), these rodents drop their intake to less than 1 kg (2.2 lbs).

Besides being animals that eat only plants, beavers are known for their architectural skills. With the combination of mud, tree branches, rocks, and grass to build dams. The main reason behind building dams is to create a home and to protect themselves against predators.

Koalas

koala eating plants on a tree

Scientific Name: Phascolarctos cinereus

Class: Mammal

Although they are often called koala bears, koalas are actually not bears. They are native to Australia and live in eucalyptus forests and eat eucalyptus leaves.

Koalas have pouches in their cheeks where they can store food before it is chewed. They will occasionally regurgitate food to chew it a second time, although they are not ruminants.

Koalas weigh between 4-15 kg (9-33 lbs) and eat about 1.3 kg (3 lbs) of leaves per day. Eucalyptus leaves are very toxic, and a koala’s digestive system is adapted to process them. They are hindgut fermenters and have a very long caecum, and according to Wikipedia, they can retain their digestion for 100-200 hours.

Interestingly, they can select what to retain within the caecum for further fermentation, while passing along what they wish to expel. Although koalas can live up to 18 years in the wild, they will often die of starvation due to the wearing down of their chewing teeth.

Read Also - Animals That Eat Fish

Rhinos

two rhinos standing on a gray grass

Scientific Name: Rhinocerotidae

Class: Mammal

The rhino is the second-largest land mammal. It is found in Eastern and Southern Africa, as well as South and Southeast Asia. Rhinos weigh an amazing 850-3,200 kg and are found in 5 different species.

They consume about 2.5% of their body weight per day and this comes to about 21-80 kg (46-176 lbs) of forage.

However, the different species have diets adapted to their environments and habitats, that vary from strict grass diets to aquatic plant life.

A rhino’s diet consists mainly of leafy plants, though, when these are not available, rhinos can graze on other plants such as grass, roots, bark, twigs, and roots. They are hindgut fermenters and this enables them to forage on plants higher in fibrous content.

Cows

group of cows eating grass

Scientific Name: Bos taurus

Class: Mammal

When we talk about animals that eat only plants, we must not forget cows. These ruminants are some of the most important domestic animals that have been kept as livestock, mainly for milk and meat.

The majority of the cow’s diet is based on grass (60%). However, besides grass, they’ll also feed on hay, forage, grains, and other plant food, depending on the season and availability.

What’s interesting about cows is that they chew more than 50 times per minute, and they also spend almost 6 hours per day eating, in addition to another 8 hours of chewing their cud. As a result, cows will consume 2% food of their total body weight per day.