There are many animals that only eat plants or mainly eat plants.
In this post, you will learn what animals that only eat plants are called, what they eat, where they live, and you’ll learn many examples of these animals.
Many people are under the assumption that meat must be consumed in order to survive and get enough protein for life. But as we will see from plenty of animal examples, it is very much possible to live and have plenty of energy for these animals, eating only plants.
What Are Animals that Only Eat Plants Called?
Animals that only eat plants, or mainly plants in their diet, are called Herbivores. Herbivores include animals that eat many different plant-based foods in their diet, as well as those that will mainly eat just a certain type of plant, such as grass (graminivore), leaves (folivore), fruits (frugivore), or seeds (granivore).
The word Herbivore comes from the Latin words herba which means grass, and vorare which means “to devour”.
There are a couple of different types of animals that are not herbivores in the food chain, which we will discuss briefly next.
You can find even more info on herbivores at Herbivores – A Guide to Plant-Eating Animals.
Animals that Only Eat Meat
Animals that eat meat primarily, or animals that eat only animals, are called carnivores. Some carnivores can eat plants and will eat small amounts of plants, but the majority of their diet is meat in the form of other animals. Carnivores include some of these types which can eat small amounts of plants, and some which can eat no plants at all.
Carnivores are the opposite type of animals to herbivores, which we learned are wild animals that eat plants mostly.
There is a type of animal that eats both plants and animals, these are called omnivores. Omnivores eat both plants and animals, usually depending on what is most available as a source of food.
What Do Herbivores Eat?
Herbivores get all or most of their energy from plants. Herbivores eat plants, flowers, grass, leaves, nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, algae, roots, shrubs, grains, and more.
Herbivores that eat mostly grass are known as graminivores or grazers.
Most herbivores have round and flat teeth like molars in the back. This helps herbivores to grind up plant matter while they are chewing.
In the front, a lot of herbivores will have chisel-like teeth such as incisors. These are useful for tearing plants such as leaves off of trees or bushes or for gnawing through wood or hard seeds.
This is in contrast to carnivores which have sharp teeth. Sharp teeth like canines are useful for tearing meat.
Where Do Herbivores Live?
Herbivores are found living in all types of climates and throughout the world.
Even in deserts, you will find herbivores such as tortoises. Herbivores are also found living in grasslands and rainforests.
Herbivores can also be found living underwater. Some herbivores such as certain ducks and geese are found living on or near bodies of water such as ponds and lakes.
What Animals Are Herbivores?
Let’s take a look at some herbivores that only eat plants.
For a more in-depth list, visit our page at Examples of Herbivore Animals.
Cows have a diet of mostly eating all grass. They might also graze and eat some leaves, but the majority of a cow’s natural diet will be grass.
This is not always true for dairy and farm cows. The cows will still eat grass, in the form of hay. Over 50% of their diet still might consist of grass, but a lot of times the rest of the diet is filled with grain and left-over plant remains such as citrus pulp or canola meal.
That’s why in more recent times you will see some dairy and beef advertised as being grass-fed. This means that the cow was allowed to eat a more natural diet of almost all grass.
Herbivores that eat mainly or only grass, such as cows and cattle are called graminivores.
(Learn more at Animals that Eat Grass)
Pandas live almost entirely on eating bamboo. They eat the leaves, shoots and stems of the bamboo and they can eat anywhere from 25 to 85 pounds of bamboo per day!
Actually, pandas help to spread the bamboo plant by also spreading the bamboo seeds through their natural process.
A very small percentage of their diet, less than 1% will sometimes include other plants than bamboo and small rodents.
The beloved elephant. The elephant conjures up images of an elephant at a circus eating hay and bananas. And that’s what elephants eat, plus more.
Elephants eat grass, fruit, roots, and bark. An elephant is a very large animal and consumes a lot of food a day. An elephant can eat up to 300 pounds of food per day!
The common fruits and vegetables eaten by an elephant are bananas, apples, and carrots and they can even eat a ton of other fruits and veggies such as pears, pineapples, kale, and more.
In the wild, elephants will also eat bamboo, just like pandas, and also rice, sugar cane, corn, and leaves.
The elephant is quite a large and powerful animal for one that only eats fruits, vegetables, and plants!
Another animal that only eats plants is the deer. Deer eat plenty of leaves, twigs, nuts, fruits, grass, shrubs, and weeds.
See more at What do deer eat?
How could it get so strong eating plants? It does, the gorilla is extremely strong and another animal that only eats plants and is predominantly vegetarian or plant-based.
Gorillas are a class of herbivores known as folivores. The exact diet is different depending on the species and location of the gorilla, but most, feed largely and plant leaves, stems and roots. They also feed on fruits and in one region, a type of gorilla eats over 50% of its diet in fruit.
A very small percentage. less than 2-3%, of some species of gorillas’ diets, are ants, termites and snails.
The gorilla is classified as a folivore, one that eats mostly leaves.
Horses eat mostly grass or hay. But they can also eat fruits and vegetables as well as grains.
Horses are extremely strong and active animals and get plenty of nutrition from eating mostly grass.
What do Horses eat?
In the wild, giraffes eat mostly leaves and twigs or trees. Their long necks allow them to get up high into trees and eat the leaves.
Beavers are animals that only eat plants. Beavers eat bark, twigs, and stems. They will also eat leaves, grass, and roots.
Camels eat primarily grass, twigs and leaves of plants. Camels can eat a wide variety of plants and have a tough mouth that can even handle thorns.
Bison eat primarily grass, weeds, and leafy plants. They eat about 30 pounds of grass a day.
The butterfly eats mostly nectar from flowers. It can also eat the liquid from rotting fruit as well.
Geese are birds that are classified as herbivores. They eat mainly grass and you will see the grazing near ponds or bodies of water.
Learn more at Are Birds Herbivores or Omnivores? (Or Carnivores?)
Some More Herbivore Examples
- Guinea Pig
- Parrot Fish
- Green Sea Turtle
Wild Animals that Eat Plants
What are some animals in the wild that eat mostly plants? Here’s a full list of wild animals that eat plants.
- Green Sea Turtle
- Guinea Pig
- Parrot Fish
What Animals are Classified as Herbivores?
Animals that eat only plants, or mainly plants, are classified as herbivores. You can see our list of herbivores at Examples of Herbivores.
Do Herbivores Drink Milk?
Herbivores only drink milk in infancy. Herbivores usually drink milk as infants before their digestive tract can handle forages.
Which Organisms Eat Only Plants?
Organisms that eat only plants are called Herbivores. See the list of herbivores above.
Final Thoughts on Animals that Only Eat Plants
We have learned that animals that eat only plants are called herbivores. We almost discovered that there are a lot of animals that eat only plants as well. Some of these are actually very big and strong animals, such as gorillas, elephants and bison.