Wildlife Ranching Magazine


Thus far in the series, the following have been discussed: article 1 – the different digestive classes or categories that exist for African ungulates larger than a blue duiker; article 2 – two bulk grazing herbivores, namely the hippopotamus and the white rhinoceros; article 3 – browsing and intermediate mega herbivores, namely the black rhinoceros and the African savannah elephant and black rhino’s digestive strategies.


To recap, herbivores are animals that select palatable plant parts as a food source. They have mouthparts adapted to select, grind and/or rasp plant matter (grass and leaves from shrubs, small stems and tree bark) into smaller particles. These smaller particles are converted into volatile fatty acids (energy) and other essential nutrients by fermentation and microbial action in the anaerobic foregut and/or hindgut. When comparing foregut fermentors (ruminants) to hindgut fermentors in terms of energy supply from the ingested food source, both groups get a large portion of their energy from fermenting cellulose (fibrous food) into volatile fatty acids (energy), aided by microbial action in the fore and/ or hindgut (caecum/colon) of the different species. The different ruminant classes will be discussed in more detail in this article.

Ruminant digestive strategy

The animals collect palatable plant matter grasping it with their tongues or nibbling it with their lips. The selected food then gets cut by the teeth; this forms a bolus that travels to the reticulorumen with the aid of copious amounts of saliva via the oesophagus. Please note, ruminants don’t have any upper incisors. They have a hard palate, so they can’t bite like zebras do. Ruminants are that ruminate the ingested food (chew the cud). They have a four-compartmental stomach, comprised of the omasum,

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