Digestion is an important process for all animals. What you may not know, however, is that some animals have more than one stomach to help them digest their food.
Animals with multiple stomachs have a digestion process that is different from other animals. The stomachs work together to break down food so that the animal can absorb the nutrients.
Animals with four stomach chambers are called ruminants, and they include cows, sheep, and goats.
Others with three stomachs are called pseudo-ruminants.
In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of digestion for ruminants and how their multiple stomachs work.
List of Animals with more than one stomach
- Baird’s beaked whale
Reindeer are a type of deer that is found in the northern parts of Europe and Asia. They are also known as caribou in North America. Reindeer have been domesticated by humans and are used as working animals, for their meat and antlers, and for their hides.
The reindeer has many adaptations that help it survive in its cold, Arctic habitat. These adaptations include a thick coat of fur, hooves that can spread to increase surface area on soft snow, and the ability to see ultraviolet light.
Reindeer are a type of deer that belong to the ruminant group of mammals. Ruminants are mammals that “chew the cud” and have four stomachs. All species of deer are ruminants.
What this means is when they swallow their meal, they first chew it to the point where they can store that food in the first stomach (the rumen).
After that, it undergoes additional digestion in the reticulum, sometimes known as the second stomach. This is where it is further broken down before being regurgitated up from the reticulum into the mouth for more chewing.
This activity, also known as chewing the cud, typically takes place while they are relaxing.
After being re-chewed, the food is transported to the third stomach, known as the omasum, which is responsible for the absorption of water.
In the end, it passes via the abomasum, where it undergoes additional digestion, before being delivered to the intestines, which are responsible for the absorption of nutrients into the body.
Below is a detailed diagram of the ruminant digestive system
Kangaroo is the common name given to a group of mammalians found in Australia and New Guinea. They are found across mainland Australia but avoids more fertile areas in the south, east coast and northern rainforests.
They feed mainly on grass and shrubs. They are herbivores.
They have two stomach chambers called the sacciform and the tubiform. The first chamber is where all the bacteria, fungi and protozoa is, which helps to start the fermentation process. This helps the Kangeroo to properly digest the food.
Food can take many hours to start fermenting, so can stay in this stomach chamber for quite a while before moving onto the next part.
Kangeroos do regurgitate food if it remains undigested, much like how cows chew the cud. They will spit it up and chew it some more, before swallowing it back down into the fist stomach chamber.
Once the food is fermented, it’ll then move onto the second stomach chamber where it will be exposed to acids and enzymes.
The Elk (Cervus canadensis), is an ungulate mammal which is also known as the ‘wapiti’ a native American word that means ‘light-colored deer’. It is one of the largest deer species in the world, along with the Moose and the Sambar Deer. Elks are native to North America and East Asia although they have adapted well to countries where they have been introduced.
Elks are ruminant animals that have a four chambered stomach, the first chamber stores food and the other three chambers digest it.
The stomach of a deer has four chambers. The rumen, the first chamber, is used for storing.
The deer’s rumen permits them to gather a large amount of food at once and digest it later.
The deer reintroduce the food to their mouth and chew it once again, much like other Ruminants. This is known as chewing their cud.
The rumen is the largest part of the deer stomach. It acts as a storage tank for food that has been recently eaten. The food is partially digested in the rumen by bacteria before it moves on to the other parts of the stomach.
Camels are herbivores and eat any kind of vegetation they can find including grasses, leaves and plants.
Camels have a three-chambered rather than a four-chambered digestive tract like other ruminant animals.
In ruminants the stomach is categorised into different chambers which are:
1. The Rumen – this is the largest part and holds large amounts of partially digested food. This is where the ‘cud’ comes from. Good bacteria in the Rumen helps soften and digest the food and provides protein for the animal.
The major role of the rumen in camels is to break down food particles with the help of mechanical digestion and fermentation by using symbiotic microbes. It also plays role in the removal of waste particles.
2. The Reticulum – this part of the stomach is called the ‘hardware’ stomach. The plant material that has been eaten is also softened further in this stomach section and is formed into small wads of cud. Each cud returns to the animals mouth and is chewed 40 – 60 times and then swallowed properly.
3. The Omasum – this part of the stomach is a ‘filter’. It filters through all the food the animal eats. The cud is also pressed and broken down further.
4. The Abomasum – this part of the stomach is like a humans stomach and is connected to the intestines. Here, the food is finally digested by the stomach acid and essential nutrients that the animal needs are passed through the bloodstream.
One part which is not present in the camel is known as the omasum.
In camels, only 3 ruminant stomach chambers are known to exist, namely rumen, reticulum, and abomasum.
Cows are ruminant animals.
Cows are herbivores which means they do not eat meat, only plants, grass and cereal.
Their digestive tracts, which are similar to those of goats, sheep and deer, consist of the mouth, oesophagus, four stomach compartments, small intestine and large intestine.
Cows have only one stomach, however it is divided into four compartments: the Rumen, Reticulum, Omasum, and Abomasum. It’s not the same as a human gut. That’s why a cow is typically referred to as having four stomachs.
A cow spends up to 6 hours a day eating. Cows spend over 8 hours a day chewing their cud which is regurgitated, partially digested food. Cows each drink equivalent to a bathtub full of water a day.
Alligators are freshwater animals. They live in marshes, swamps, rivers, and lakes.
Alligators eat fish, snakes, turtles, birds, and small mammals.
Alligators have two stomachs, one for eating and one for digesting their prey. The first half contains gastroliths (stones) to grind up the meal. The second is extremely acidic. This helps to break down the remaining food so that it may be digested.
Moose are the worlds largest deer species and are found in northern forests in North America, Europe, and Russia. In North America, the moose range includes almost all of Canada, most of central and western Alaska, the upper Rocky Mountains and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Moose are large even-toed herbivorous mammals which feed up on birch and aspen twigs, horsetail, sedges, roots, pond weeds and grasses. Moose eat leaves, twigs, buds and the bark of some woody plants, as well as lichens, aquatic plants and some of the taller herbaceous land plants. They are “herbivores” and may eat as much as 50 to 60 pounds per day.
Moose can be seen eating during the day and night, but they are usually out at dawn and dusk. Moose can actually feed under water.
The digestive tracts of moose are comparable to those of domestic cattle. They are “ruminants,” and their stomachs are divided into four sections. They will rest after meal times and return partially digested food from their stomachs to their lips to “chew the cud” and break down their food more completely before ingesting it again.
Goats are fascinating creatures. Goats are robust and adaptable, with more applications than you might think. Goats can live and prosper in almost any environment. A goat is a hoofed animal belonging to the Capra genus. The majority of goats are classified as “domestic goats,” which are subspecies of the “wild goat.”
There are nine different types of goats in the world, but the domestic goat is the most prevalent. Goats are ‘bovids,’ members of the ‘bovidae’ family, and ‘caprins,’ subspecies of the ‘caprinae’ subfamily.
Goats, like cows and giraffes, are ruminant animals that chew cud. Ruminants have a four-chambered stomach that aids in the digestion, regurgitation, and re-digesting of food. Goats are herbivores (plant eaters) who graze for the majority of the day.
Grass, herbs, tree leaves, and other plant material are eaten by goats. Goats eat without chewing and swallow their meal whole. They regurgitate the meal (known as a cud at the time) and chew it completely before swallowing it for the last time.
Sheep are ruminant animals. Sheep are exclusively herbivorous mammals.
The mouth, oesophagus, four stomach compartments, small intestine, and large intestine make up their digestive tracts, which are comparable to those of goats, cows, and deer.
Sheep have only one stomach, however it is divided into four compartments: the Rumen, Reticulum, Omasum, and Abomasum. It’s not the same as a human gut. That is why a sheep is typically said to have four stomachs.
Llamas are herbivores who eat all types of vegetation, including grasses, leaves, and plants.
Because they are adapted to a harsh climate, llamas are often healthy and resistant to a variety of ailments that affect sheep, goats, cattle, and horses, such as foot rot, bloat, and fly strike. Llamas get along well with other animals and are frequently treated for worms at the same time as their companions.
Unlike other ruminant animals, llamas have a three-chambered digestive tract rather than a four-chambered one.
The stomach of ruminants is divided into four compartments, including:
1. The Rumen
2. The Reticulum
3. The Omasum
4. The Abomasum
One part which is not present in the Llamas is known as the omasum.
In Llamas, only 3 ruminant stomach chambers are known to exist, namely rumen, reticulum, and abomasum.
Ostriches are are known as the fastest flightless birds on the planet. They are the largest bird and native to African. They are also the quickest birds on land, with a top speed of 43 mph.
Ostriches have three stomachs and an exceptionally lengthy intestine, which makes them unique.
They have a very unusual digestive system.
Because they lack teeth, they ingest small stones to aid in the digestion of their food. Some ostriches even have 2 pounds of stones in their stomachs.
As a result, they require three stomachs in order to digest all of the various foods they consume.
The stomach’s ventriculus is where they keep stones and pebbles to crush their meal.
The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis, which means “quick walking camel leopard”) is an African even-toed ungulate mammal that is the tallest of all land-living animals.
Giraffes live in habitats where the available food varies throughout the year. During the dry season, giraffes eat evergreen leaves, however, once the rainy season begins, they switch to new leaves and stems that sprout on deciduous trees. Also, twigs and branches are pulled into the mouth of the giraffe with their long and dextrous tongues. In the wild giraffes can eat up to 66 kilograms of food daily.
Giraffes are ruminants having a four-chambered stomach that digests the plants they consume.
Giraffes chew their cud when they aren’t eating. After swallowing the leaves for the first time, a ball of leaves goes all the way up the throat and into the mouth for more grinding.
Pronghorns are similar in size to the smaller deer of the Americas, such as the white-tailed deer.
Pronghorns have a tall head and wide eyes, as well as long ears. Pronghorns are ruminants, with a stomach divided into four chambers, each of which is responsible for a different element of the digestion of the fibrous plant material they eat.
A dolphin’s stomach has three chambers, similar to that of an ungulate (cow or deer), indicating that it evolved from a terrestrial predecessor.
Because dolphins do not chew their food, their meal is masticated in their first stomach, or fore stomach.
The Hippopotamus is the third largest living land mammal on the earth. A male hippopotamus is called a ‘bull’, a female hippopotamus is called a ‘cow’ and a baby hippopotamus is called a ‘calf’.
The hippopotamus is a large, mostly plant-eating African mammal, one of only two extant, and three or four recently extinct, species in the family ‘Hippopotamidae’.
Hippos have a 3-chambered stomach with each part having a different a distinct purpose. They are unusual in the sense that they differ to other hoofed animal’s digestive system.
Hippos engage in foregut fermentation, which exposes their food to bacteria that can break down cellulose plant cell walls early on in the digestion of food.
They do not, however, chew their cud like ruminants do, and are instead bulk grazers similar to hind-gut digesters.
They are slow and take their time traveling through the trees. On average they travel just 41 yards per, which is less than half the length of a football pitch.
Sloths have very large, specialized, slow-acting stomachs with multiple compartments in which symbiotic (the living together of two dissimilar organisms) bacteria break down the tough leaves. Sloths have four stomachs to help them break down their food. They have the slowest metabolic rate of any animal which means that it takes ages for them to digest their food. The entire digestion process takes around a month to complete.
Baird’s beaked whale
The Baird’s beaked whale has an incredible 13 stomachs!
They also have the densest bones compared to other mammals.
The whale’s stomach is divided into two huge chambers: the main stomach and the pyloric stomach. The stomachs of beaked whales are connected by a series of connecting chambers.