Many animals eat grass as their main source of food, including cows, grasshoppers, rabbits, deer, sheep, horses, goats, bison, buffalos, zebras, kangaroos, and many others. The list is very long.
Basically, all the animals that belong to the family of grass-eating mammals are called “grazers”. And grass is one of the most widely available types of food on the planet because it’s easily reproducible, relatively cheap, and easy to maintain.
Even in nature, many herbivorous animals have grass as their main source of food, especially when there are no other types of herbivorous foods around. These animals include grasshoppers, deer, bison, zebras, kangaroos, and many others.
However, not all domesticated herbivorous animals eat grass. Cows, rabbits, sheep, and horses do, while goats will also eat grass, but will also look for other plant-based sources of food.
Let’s take a look at some of the more common animals that eat grass.
10 Animals that Eat Grass
For cows, grass is the primary source of food. That’s especially the case in farms where farmers look to provide grass-fed cattle to their customers, which is a highly valued type of meat.
On these farms, cows will eat both fresh and dried grass, although fresh grass tends to have more nutrients. Dried grass, on the other hand, is also very commonly used in farms. It’s great for those farmers who don’t have a lot of grasslands and tend to buy the dried grass from other farmers or produce it on their own.
The cow’s grass is called “cud”. It’s said that on average, a cow will spend almost 8 hours chewing its cud, which amounts to around 30.000 chews daily! That’s an astonishing number, although perhaps not as surprising considering how slowly cows chew.
Yes, grasshoppers can also be included in the list of grass eaters. Most grasshopper types are herbivorous animals, and they’ll primarily look for leaves and seeds, but will also consume grass when there are no other foods around.
In fact, for some farmers, grasshoppers might become a problem if they start chewing their produce too often, which might lead them to start chewing grass. And when they have cattle around that needs to be fed, then farmers often opt for the option to get rid of the grasshoppers.
Horses love grass. They love almost any type of pasture, including cow pastures, as well as hay. But not all types of grass are suitable for a horse’s digestion. They prefer to eat grass near the roots, which means that horses often pull out larger sections of grass, which might result in pastures without grass.
Cows, on the other hand, graze the grass with their tongues and will only pick up the upper portion of the grass. This means that they’ll somewhat shorten the grass, but not eliminate it completely.
So for that reason, many farmers opt to feed them a different type of grass with stronger and deeper roots. Hay is often an important source of food for horses, too. On average, a horse can chew up to 25lbs of grass per day.
Sheep are often considered to be natural lawnmowers. They have the right teeth and digestions suited to a grass diet, so they’ll only graze the grass near the top of the grass follicles.
You might have sometimes seen that a pasture where the sheep were feeding on the grass is much more even and nicely distributed, unlike horse pastures which tend to get deteriorated completely. Sheep are herbivores that prefer to eat grass, but almost any other type of vegetarian food, including leaves and seeds.
Goats, on the other hand, are much more adaptable when it comes to their diet. They’ll also like to eat grass, but it’s not their primary source of food. Instead, goats will look to eat leaves and bushes first before they turn to grass.
That’s because goats are highly adaptable to what the environment gives them. They can survive in pretty harsh conditions and where there’s not a lot of grass, because they can feed on different food sources.
Deer are friendly and peaceful animals that have a primarily vegetarian diet. They’ll eat anything from grass to leaves and other types of herbivorous food they might come across. Like goats, they’re not very picky about their food.
Sometimes, when they feel completely safe, they’ll stop by in an open pasture and enjoy some natural grass. However, this leads them to become vulnerable to attacks from predators, so they need to be wary.
This means that deer will prefer other types of food first where they have a little more control over their surroundings, such as leaves, for example.
Bison will almost exclusively eat grass. They have an impressive digestive system which is called the ruminant system. They’re ruminants, which means they are able to slowly ferment food in their stomachs before they digest it, which gives them more space to store the food.
However, bison will also eat other types of vegetation when there’s no grass around. And because some bison species live in very dry areas, they have to adapt and consume other types of vegetation, too. But they’ll mostly only be found in areas where there’s a lot of grass.
Elephants are also herbivores, and they’ll eat anything from twigs, leaves, to grass and roots. They’re not picky when it comes to their food, although they normally prefer to eat twigs from higher places and trees, and they’ll also turn to grass when they are in a grassland area.
African elephants, especially, are browsers, which means they’ll search for almost any type of vegetable-based food, including grass. Asian elephants, on the other hand, are grazers, which means they’ll primarily eat grass. They have the ability to clean up grass areas nicely, as they won’t normally consume entire pieces of grass, but only a part of them.
Who could forget rabbits on this long list of animals that eat grass? They’re so cute and fluffy, and the primary source of food for them is grass. When we have them in captivity, we will normally have to provide hay for them.
In the wild, rabbits will only feed on grass, and rarely on other vegetation types that are found near the ground. They have a special mechanism called “hindgut fermentation”, which enables them to digest grass more easily.
Zebras will primarily eat grass and sedges, but will also sometimes turn to fruits, roots, and bark. But because most zebras live in grassy areas with higher types of grass, it becomes their primary source of food. A stunning fact with zebras is that they’ll spend up to 80% of their time feeding on grass!
There are many grass-eaters in addition to the ones we’ve mentioned in the article. You will find that other animal species such as kangaroos, elk, rhinoceros, giraffe, and others, also belong to this group. Grass is perhaps one of the most universal types of food that is found everywhere in the world, and many different animals eat it.