• Question: why do cows have more stomachs than humans

    Asked by niamhbrady to Angela, Gabriele, Karen, Shane on 20 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Shane Mc Guinness

      Shane Mc Guinness answered on 20 Nov 2013:

      Excellent question Niamh!
      Let me see if I can remember them from my old zoology days…
      The cow’s four stomachs are….

      Woo, my memory isn’t gone just yet!
      So cows eat grass, but grass is really really tough because if something called cellulose in plant cells. So it needs to go through many different stages of digestion to be turned into energy that the cow can use to survive, grow and produce new cows!

    • Photo: Angela Stevenson

      Angela Stevenson answered on 20 Nov 2013:

      Hi Niamh! I love this question, and I love cows – they are so fun and curious! Cow’s don’t actually have four stomachs, they just have four compartments (as indicated by Shane) and for good reasons! Cows are ruminants, which basically means that they have a digestive system designed to process plant material. Grasses and other such types of plants contain cellulose and other difficult compounds to digest, but cows have fortunately found a way around this with their fancy stomach that helps them digest and survive on just plants. Each compartment in the cows stomach has an important function. The omasum’s main function is to absorb water and nutrients from the cow’s food. The abomasum is like the human stomach, so it’s often called the cow’s ‘true stomach’. the plant material is continually regurgitated, rechewed and further digested by specialised microbes in the rumen. We on the other hand, don’t eat grass, we feed on material that is much more easily digested, so we don’t have the need for such a complex stomach like the cow’s one. Hope that helps 🙂