Last week I mentioned ruminants. Ruminants include cows, sheep, goats, llamas, camels, deer, and many, many more. As I mentioned they also chew cud (which is a chunk of food they regurgitate and chew again breaking down the particle size; this process is called rumination – but more on that later ).
Most people often believe that ruminant animals have four stomachs. That is not entirely true, they have one stomach with four compartments. In the photo below you can see the four compartments: Rumen, Reticulum, Omasum, and Abomasum – each one has a different role, but I will go more into that later.
(Photo source: Ruminant Digestion)
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why ruminant animals can eat grass and hay and humans can not (we are monogastrics).
(Photo source: Sheep grazing)
Did you know…
Ruminant animals (animals that have one stomach with four compartments and chew their cud; includes cattle, sheep, goats, lamas, etc. – will explain more later) do NOT have teeth on their upper jaw?
Well, technically they have premolars and molars in the very back of their mouths on the upper and lower jaws, but no teeth upper front teeth. Instead they have a dental pad, which would be hard, slick surface.
(Photo: Virginia cooperative Extension)
So how do they eat? Glad you asked! The part of their mouth where the upper teeth would normally be is called a dental pad. When they take a bite of grass they wrap their tongue around it and use the dental pad and their bottom teeth to bite it off.
So how do the young animals nurse you ask… They wrap their tongues around the mother’s teat and use pressure from the dental pad to suck.
This is what a cow’s mouth looks like – the dental pad on top and teeth on bottom only! (Photo: http://downlandviews.blogspot.com)
I know, very cool stuff!