A lot of strange things are happening these days. The Ice in the North Pole is melting and ocean waters over flooding river banks. It’s normal for you to start thinking weird things like, “can herbivores eat meat?”. And the answer to that question is…
Herbivores cannot eat meat because they have teeth specialized for grinding plants and not meat. To move the meat to the next level of digestion, where digestive enzymes are to work on the ingested food, they have to be ripped apart, and this cannot be done by the side-to-side chewing pattern of herbivores. Herbivores eat plants, while carnivores eat meat.
Can Herbivores Eat Meat?
Carnivores can eat meat because first, they can rip to pieces the complex meat structures at the stage of ingesting with the help of their pointed sharpened teeth. Second, they have a specialized gut that digests animal-origin food with great efficiency.
Herbivores, on the other side, have different stomachs that allow them to break and absorbs the nutrients from plant-based food. Besides, herbivores have teeth that are suitable for grinding the vegetation, not for penetrating through the meat.
Will herbivores eat meat if starving?
In the wild, animals occasionally experience drought. Grass, among others, becomes scarce causing famine for herbivores. In cases like this, some animals have no other choice but to eat what they get.
This includes meat and remains of other animals, and in rare cases, the meat of their kind. These are not part of the normal feeding patterns of an herbivore, but the wilderness is full of surprises, and it never fails to surprise us over and over again.
Sadly, the purpose of eating is to gain nutrients, and as mentioned above, herbivores are not equipped to extract nutrients from meat. They can eat meat to satiate hunger, but the extraction of nutrients is not part of the equation.
So, yes, herbivores will eat meat, if there is a drought, causing there to be a lack of food. But times, it doesn’t count in their survival.
Related: List of Animals That Eat Grass
What happens if an herbivore eats meat?
Just like how most of us went against our parents to drop down the bedroom window and attend a party, some oddballs in the wild just go against nature from either curiosity or hunger. Some of us got away with attending late-night parties, but the nut head animals aren’t that lucky.
Indigestion is definitely imminent.
The digestive system of herbivores is not suitable for meat. Apart from indigestion, malnutrition is also to result if the herbivore decides to stick to meat as their main source of food. In the end, the herbivore will grow weak and eventually die.
Can Herbivores Digest Meat?
No, herbivores cannot digest meat because they have the digestive system that helps them extract nutrients from the plants and not meat. Unlike the carnivores, herbivores have a mechanical system where plant matter is regurgitated. Carnivores have different digestive systems that process and digest complex animal matter. Their stomach, which is larger than the herbivores’, has concentrated amounts of hydrochloric acids that make meat digestion possible.
Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. All living things get their nutrient from the sun but not all living things can get it directly.
And as energy can neither be created nor destroyed, according to the law of conservation of energy, they have to depend on other living things to extract and process it for them. For this sake, we have a food chain. And in this food chain, herbivores eat plants and are placed beneath carnivores.
Changing the feeding habits and rotating the food chain the other way would be pointless and bizarre.
Herbivores That Eat Meat
There are quite a number of herbivores that eat meat. It’s not like it is a natural order for herbivores to eat meat, but there are a few animals that will do it anyways.
A cow will eat meat but this is occasionally due to the mad cow disease. Some legendary cow in India was said to have devoured about 48 cows!
This might come as a surprise for anyone unaware of their terrible temper and aggressiveness but the ferocious hippos from time to time eat meat too. They have, on special occasions, fed on impala, and even eaten the remains of their kind.
A few deer individuals have been also observed feeding on meat from time to time. Small birds, mice, and frogs are the most common meals among meat-eating deer.
A part of the lorikeets’ population, according to an avid bird watcher in Australia, is beginning to have a knack for eating meat. This hasn’t been proven yet by scientists but seeing is most definitely believing.
There are certainly dozens of animals that would snatch meat here and there, but these herbivores are the most carnivorous animals in the world.
To conclude, some herbivore animals may occasionally eat meat due to deviant behavior, nutrition stress, or lack of their usual food. However, the stomach and teeth of an herbivore are not suitable for animal origin food, and completely rotating the feeding habits may lead to malnutrition and even death.