Difference Between Alimentary Canal of Herbivores and Carnivores

Key Difference – Alimentary Canal of Herbivores vs Carnivores

Before discussing the difference between alimentary canal of herbivores and carnivores, let us first briefly discuss the function of the alimentary canal. All the mammals live on earth can be divided into three main groups based on their dietary pattern; herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. The alimentary canal is the pathway by which food is passed through the body and wastes are expelled. The alimentary canal of mammals includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and the anus. Herbivores and carnivores have unique dietary patterns, and the digestive systems are well adapted to their specific diets. These adaptations are extremely useful for their survival. However, the key difference between alimentary canal of herbivores and carnivores is that the alimentary canal of carnivores is shorter, and stomach is  larger than that of herbivores. In this article, the further difference between alimentary canal of herbivores and carnivores will be highlighted.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores

Some mammals feed only on flesh of the other animals. They are called carnivores. The alimentary canals of carnivores are well adapted to deal with protein-rich food. Carnivores have a long stomach that can store food for long periods, thus can survive long periods between meals. Moreover, their stomachs have strong gastric juices like pepsin, which are useful to digest bony parts of their diets. Moreover, the duodenum, ileum and colon of carnivores are not enlarged and have less bacterial breakdown. Their liver is enlarged and well-adapted for transamination and deamination.Difference Between Alimentary Canal of Herbivores and Carnivores

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores

Herbivores are animals that feed only on plant matters. Due to the low nutrient content of plant foods, herbivores need a large amount of food and eat for a long time. Herbivorous mammals cannot produce cellulase, which is required for the digestion of the cellulose cell wall of plants. In order to digest cellulose, they have bacteria that can produce cellulose enzyme. Even with cellulose-digesting bacteria, herbivores get a very low amount of nutrients from the plant matters. Because of this, many herbivores can get the partially digested food from the stomach to the mouth to be re-chewed; which is called chewing the cud. Certain herbivores like horses and cows have a complex four-chambered stomach. The compartments are the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. Because of the presence of rumen, which is an enlarged fermentation chamber with a great amount of symbiotic cellulose-digesting bacteria, these herbivores are called ruminants.Alimentary Canal of Herbivores vs Carnivores

What is the difference between Alimentary Canal of Herbivores and Carnivores?

Characteristics of Alimentary Canal of Herbivores and Carnivores


Herbivores: The alimentary canal of carnivores is shorter than that of herbivores.

Carnivores: The alimentary canal of herbivores is longer than that of carnivores.

Presence of Bacteria

Herbivores: Herbivores have symbiotic cellulose-digesting bacteria to digest cellulose cell wall of plant cells.

Carnivores: Carnivores have less bacterial breakdowns


Carnivores: Carnivores have long stomachs that can store food for a long period. Unlike in herbivores, the stomach of carnivores secretes strong gastric juices like pepsin.

Herbivores: Herbivores like ruminants have four-chambered stomach


Herbivores: Esophagus of herbivores allows reverse peristalsis of partially digested food from their stomach to the mouth.

Carnivores: Esophagus of carnivores does not allow reverse peristalsis.


 Image Courtesy:
 “Abomasum (PSF)” by Pearson Scott Foresman – Archives of Pearson Scott Foresman, donated to the Wikimedia Foundation→This file has been extracted from another file: PSF A-10005.png .(Public Domain) via Commons 
“Male Lion and Cub Chitwa South Africa Luca Galuzzi 2004″ by Luca Galuzzi (Lucag) – Photo taken by (Luca Galuzzi) * http://www.galuzzi.it. ( (CC BY-SA 2.5) via Commons