Carnivores And Herbivores

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Herbivorous and Carnivorous animals

Based on the mode of nutrition, animals can be classified into two categories:

  • Carnivores or Carnivorous animals
  • Herbivores or Herbivorous animals

Carnivorous animals derive their nutrient requirements from other animals. Conversely, herbivores are animals that depend on plants for their nutrition. Read on to discover the characteristics of herbivorous and carnivorous animals, and explore how the two differ from each other.


Herbivores or herbivorous animals are those animals that feed on plants, leaves, fruits and other plant-based food for nutrition. They are known as primary consumers and occupy level 2 or higher in the food chain. Cow, goat, giraffe, sheep, and zebra are common examples of herbivores. Interestingly, there are herbivores that specialize in feeding on certain parts of the plant – for example, animals that feed on fruits are known as frugivores while folivores are herbivores that feed on leaves.

Herbivores Characteristics

Characteristics of herbivores animals include:

  1. Herbivores are physiologically and anatomically adapted to feed on plant material.
  2. Most herbivores have mutualistic gut flora which aids the digestion of plant matter.
  3. Herbivores are the primary consumers in a food chain as they have the ability to survive on plant matter alone.
  4. Herbivores also have specialized dentition which helps them to grind and process tough plant matter.  For example, many herbivores have strong and flat molars while others have non-existent or vestigial canine teeth.

Also read: Digestion In Ruminants

Examples of Herbivorous Animals

Following are common examples of herbivorous animals:

  • Herbivorous insects include butterflies, grasshoppers, treehoppers, etc.
  • Iguanas and tortoises are herbivorous reptiles.
  • Goose and parrots are herbivorous birds.


Carnivores or carnivorous animals rely on other animals for their food. These animals have several adaptations that help to hunt prey. For instance, most big cats such as lions and tigers have robust bodies, accompanied by powerful jaws capable of crushing bones and tearing flesh.

They can also be classified on the basis of their feeding habits and the kind of animals they consume. Let us have a look at some of these characteristics and classifications of carnivorous animals.

Characteristics of Carnivorous Animals

The characteristics of carnivorous animals are:

  1. Carnivorous animals have specialized dentition to hunt and kill prey. For example, baleen whales are considered predators as they hunt krill using their baleen plates as filter-feeding systems. Similarly, most carnivorous mammals use sharp canines to deliver the killing blow. Venomous reptiles use fangs that function like hypodermic needles to inject venom into their prey.
  2. Some carnivorous animals such as chameleons and a few species of frogs have long sticky tongues to catch prey.
  3. Most carnivores are usually fast as they need to chase and tire their prey.
  4. Some arthropods such as spiders use venom to kill their prey.
  5. Carnivores do not have the ability to detoxify vitamin A in the liver.
  6. The length of the intestine in carnivorous animals is small.

Classification of Carnivorous Animals

Following are some of the important classifications of carnivorous animals:

Depending upon the type of food they eat

Type of Carnivore Food they consume
Aviovore Consume birds
Insectivores Consume insects
Vermivore Consume worms
Hematophage Consume blood
Piscivore Consume fish
Oviovore Consume eggs

On the basis of how these animals get their food


Predators are the animals that hunt the prey they want to consume. For eg., lions, tigers, and wolves.


Scavengers are animals that feed on dead and decaying animals for food. For eg., eagles, and vultures. However, scavengers can also kill if the need arises.

Depending on the composition of their diet


These include animals such as rats, sharks, owls, etc., that consume more than 70% of meat.


These include dogs, foxes, etc., that consume 50-70% of meat.


They consume less than 30% of meat in their diet and include humans and black bears.

Examples of Carnivorous Animals

Following are some examples of carnivorous animals:

  • Carnivorous mammals include tigers, lions, cheetahs, etc.
  • Black eagles, kites, and hawks are carnivorous birds.
  • Alligators, crocodiles, snakes, and komodo dragons are some of the carnivorous reptiles.
  • Whale, shark, and tuna are carnivorous fish.

Facts About Carnivorous Animals

Following are some of the interesting facts about carnivorous animals:

  • Not all carnivores are strict meat-eaters. Red pandas and racoons eat very little meat.
  • The carnivorous animals can move their jaws only up and down. There is no side movement of the jaws of carnivores.
  • They have an efficient and simple digestive system.
  • Dogs, wolves and lions are social carnivorous animals.

Also read: Differences between Herbivores and Carnivores

Learn more about herbivorous and carnivorous animals, their classifications, characteristics features, examples, and other related topics at BYJU’S Biology

Frequently Asked Questions


How are herbivores different from carnivorous animals?

Herbivores are animals that feed only on plants or plant products. For eg., cows, goats buffaloes, etc. Carnivorous animals, on the other hand, feed on other animals for nutrition. Lions, tigers, and leopards are carnivorous animals.


What do carnivorous animals eat?

Carnivorous animals are meat-eaters. They feed on animal flesh by hunting their prey. For example, a large carnivore can prey on a deer, a medium-sized carnivore might prey on rodents, insects, frogs while a small-sized carnivore may feed on worms.


Are amoebae classified as carnivores or herbivores?

Amoebae are classified neither as carnivores nor herbivores. They are classified as omnivores. This is because amoeba feeds on a variety of food sources such as microorganisms and plants.


Why are humans classified as omnivores?

Humans are classified as omnivores. Omnivores are organisms that feed on different types of food of plant and animal origin. Humans consume different varieties of plant and animal food products and are hence considered omnivores.


What are the distinguishing features of carnivorous animals that help them to feed on other animals?

The carnivorous animals are provided with powerful jaws and extremely sharp teeth to kill their prey and tear the flesh apart. They have strong claws that help them to capture their prey.


Why are herbivorous animals known as ruminants?

The herbivores lack the enzyme to break down the cellulose found in plants. The plants they eat get accumulated in a special compartment in their stomach called the rumen. Here the cellulose gets partially digested by the bacteria forming a cud.

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