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Ruminant Animals vs. Non Ruminant Animals: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 24, 2023
Ruminant animals have a specialized stomach with multiple compartments and ferment their food in the stomach before digestion, while non ruminant animals have a simple stomach and do not ferment their food in this manner.

Key Differences

Ruminant animals are a subset of mammals known for their specialized stomachs, which consist of multiple compartments. Non ruminant animals, in contrast, typically possess a simple one-chambered stomach.
Ruminant animals have a unique digestive process, wherein they initially ferment their food in one stomach compartment, regurgitate and re-chew it, and then continue digestion. Non ruminant animals digest their food without the need for regurgitation and re-chewing.
The digestive system of ruminant animals allows them to break down cellulose from plant materials effectively, converting it into energy. Non ruminant animals often rely more heavily on simpler carbohydrates and might struggle to digest cellulose-rich diets.
Common ruminant animals include cows, sheep, and deer, all of which rely on their specialized digestive systems to process plant materials. Non ruminant animals span a broad spectrum, from carnivores like lions to herbivores like horses, which have different digestive strategies.
The digestive capabilities of ruminant animals enable them to exploit niches and food sources that might be less accessible to non ruminant animals. Non ruminant animals, with their more direct digestive processes, have adapted to a variety of diets and environments.

Comparison Chart

Stomach Type

Multi-compartmentalized stomach.
Simple one-chambered stomach.

Digestive Process

Fermentation before digestion, with regurgitation and re-chewing.
Direct digestion without regurgitation.

Dietary Adaptation

Can digest cellulose-rich diets.
Rely more on simpler carbohydrates; some can't digest cellulose.

Common Examples

Cows, sheep, deer.
Horses, pigs, humans.

Biological Implication

Exploit niches with plant materials not accessible to others.
Adapted to a variety of diets and environments.

Ruminant Animals and Non Ruminant Animals Definitions

Ruminant Animals

Animals that regurgitate and re-chew their food for efficient digestion.
The deer, a ruminant animal, can often be seen chewing its cud.

Non Ruminant Animals

Species lacking the multi-compartment stomach of ruminants.
Elephants, as non ruminant animals, have a different approach to digesting plant materials.

Ruminant Animals

Creatures that can ferment food in their stomach before proper digestion.
The giraffe, a ruminant animal, has a unique diet of tree leaves and twigs.

Non Ruminant Animals

Animals with a simpler, single-chambered stomach.
Humans, being non ruminant animals, have a digestive system adapted to a varied diet.

Ruminant Animals

Herbivores with a multi-chambered stomach for breaking down cellulose.
Sheep, ruminant animals, thrive on a diet rich in grass and hay.

Non Ruminant Animals

Animals with a straightforward digestive system without the need for fermentation chambers.
Horses are non ruminant animals that rely on their large cecum to digest fiber.

Ruminant Animals

Mammals that have evolved a complex stomach to maximize nutrient extraction from plants.
Goats, another group of ruminant animals, are known for their diverse diet.

Non Ruminant Animals

Mammals that do not regurgitate and re-chew their food.
Pigs, as non ruminant animals, have a digestive process distinct from cows.

Ruminant Animals

Mammals with a specialized stomach for fermenting plant material.
Cows are classic ruminant animals that often graze in fields.

Non Ruminant Animals

Creatures that cannot efficiently break down cellulose via stomach fermentation.
The lion, a non ruminant animal, primarily consumes meat.


What defines ruminant animals?

Ruminant animals have a multi-compartmentalized stomach and ferment their food before actual digestion.

Why can ruminant animals digest cellulose effectively?

The specialized stomach of ruminant animals allows them to ferment and break down cellulose into digestible nutrients.

What does "chewing the cud" mean in relation to ruminant animals?

It refers to the process where ruminant animals regurgitate fermented food from their stomach to re-chew it.

Are all herbivores ruminant animals?

No, not all herbivores are ruminants. For example, horses are herbivores but are non ruminant animals.

How do non ruminant animals digest their food?

Non ruminant animals have a simple stomach and digest food without prior fermentation in the stomach.

Are ruminant animals only found in domestic settings?

No, many wild animals like deer and antelope are also ruminants.

Why can't non ruminant animals break down cellulose as ruminants do?

They lack the specialized stomach compartments and microbes that aid in cellulose breakdown.

Is the digestion process slower in ruminant animals?

Generally, yes, due to the fermentation and cud-chewing process.

Can non ruminant animals be herbivores?

Absolutely, like horses or rabbits, which are herbivores but not ruminants.

What role do microbes play in the stomachs of ruminant animals?

Microbes in the rumen help break down and ferment plant materials, aiding digestion.

Is it accurate to call humans non ruminant animals?

Yes, humans have a simple stomach and do not ferment food in the same manner as ruminants.

Are there any health concerns unique to ruminant animals?

Due to their unique digestion, they can be prone to issues like bloat or acidosis if not fed properly.

What's an advantage of the non ruminant digestive system?

It's generally faster and more straightforward, allowing for a varied diet and quicker food processing.

Can non ruminant animals eat grass?

While some non ruminant animals might consume grass, they may not extract nutrients as efficiently as ruminants.

Do non ruminant animals require different feeds compared to ruminants?

Yes, their dietary needs and digestive capabilities differ, affecting their optimal feed.

What's the main compartment of the ruminant stomach?

The rumen, which is the largest chamber, is where initial fermentation of food occurs.

Why do ruminant animals regurgitate their food?

It allows them to re-chew the food, breaking it down further for efficient digestion.

Do non ruminant animals rely on gut bacteria for digestion?

While they also have gut bacteria aiding digestion, they don't rely on them as heavily as ruminants for breaking down plant materials.

Do ruminant animals have better nutrient absorption than non ruminants?

Ruminants are specialized in extracting nutrients from plant materials, especially cellulose, which might be less accessible to non ruminants.

Can non ruminant animals consume meat?

Yes, many non ruminant animals, like lions or humans, can and do consume meat.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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