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Digestion in herbivores



      Many plant eaters, including moose, deer, elk and domestic cattle, have a specialized four-chambered stomach. This allows these large herbivores to live on vegetation that is low in nutrition but available in large amounts.

       Some herbivores have  digestive systems to help them get the most out of the plants they eat. Animals like sheep, moose, deer and cows have a special stomach called a rumen where microorganisms break down cellulose.  Animals with a rumen are called ruminants.  Ruminants swallow their food and then regurgitate it and chew on it again to break down the cellulose in the plant. Once the cellulose is broken down the food returns to the stomach where it is digested.  When you hear that an animal is chewing its cud it is re-chewing food that it had already swallowed

        Large herbivores, such as moose, only chew their food partially and then swallow it into the largest stomach chamber, the rumen. Bacteria in this stomach chamber begin the process of breaking down the coarse, fibrous plant cells in a process much like fermentation. After the animal feeds for an hour or more, the rumen is filled with plant material. Now the animal often finds a quiet spot to lie down and ruminate. During rumination, the moose and other herbivores with four ­chambered stomachs regurgitate the coarser portions of the contents of the first two stomachs, a mouthful at a time.