Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Own Poop?

When we picture rabbits in our heads, we imagine them foraging for weeds and grass. These herbivores are definitely good at finding their own food, and they consume a fibrous diet that is rich in cellulose. Unfortunately for the bunnies, this diet can be complicated to digest. By the time the food makes its way through the body, these animals have lost much of the nutrients they need to remain healthy.

How do hares and rabbits avoid this problem? It’s fairly simple. They partake in a specialized form of digestion that is known as hindgut fermentation. In layman’s terms, it means that they will eat their own poop and digest the nutrients that they need that way. These animals even produce two different types of droppings, so they can pick and choose which type to eat.

Photo: Pixabay

The softer black poops are referred to as cecotropes. This is what the bunnies eat. The little, black, round ones are the ones that the bunnies leave behind. The process even has a special name called coprophagy. If you have ever seen a cow that is chewing on its own cud, the principle is the same.

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So why do the rabbits engage in this practice? The answer is more obvious than you may think. The rabbit’s digestive system truly depends on their willingness to, well, eat poop! If their digestive system does not continue to move fluidly, they can be in all sorts of trouble. They cannot get the nutrients that they need without taking the time to re-digest the cecotropes.

The bunnies are at a severe disadvantage when they cannot properly process their food. These animals are in danger if an item they attempt to digest cannot pass through the intestines or the esophagus. In other words, the fact that they are known to eat their own droppings actually works to their advantage.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that rabbits are not capable of producing vomit? That means that they have to be extra careful when it comes to eating. Isn’t nature so neat?

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