AskDefine | Define ruminant

Dictionary Definition

ruminant adj : related to or characteristic of animals of the suborder Ruminantia or any other animal that chews a cud; "ruminant mammals" [ant: nonruminant] n : any of various cud-chewing hoofed mammals having a stomach divided into four (occasionally three) compartments

User Contributed Dictionary



ruminare, to chew the cud


  1. chewing cud


chewing cud


  1. An artiodactyl ungulate mammal which chews cud, such as a cow or deer.


artiodactyl ungulate mammal which chews cud

Related terms



  • /ʁy.mi.nɑ̃/
  • SAMPA: /Ry.mi.nA~/


  1. ruminant


  1. ruminant

Extensive Definition

A ruminant, from a physiological point-of-view, is any artiodactyl mammal that digests its food in two steps, first by eating the raw material and regurgitating a semi-digested form known as cud from within their first stomach, known as the rumen. The process of again chewing the cud to break down the plant matter and stimulate digestion is called ruminating. Ruminating Mammals include cattle, goats, sheep, giraffes, American Bison, European bison, yaks, water buffalo, deer, camels, alpacas, llamas, wildebeest, antelope, and pronghorn. However, from a zoologial and evolution point-of-view, the suborder Ruminantia includes all those species except the camels, llamas and alpacas, which are Tylopoda. Therefore, 'Ruminant' (physiology) is not synonymous of Ruminantia (taxonomy).


Ruminants have a fore-stomach with four chambers. These are the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. In the first two chambers, the rumen and the reticulum, the food is mixed with saliva and separates into layers of solid and liquid material. Solids clump together to form the cud (or bolus). The cud is then regurgitated, chewed slowly to completely mix it with saliva and to break down the particle size, Fiber, especially cellulose and hemi-cellulose, is primarily broken down into the three volatile fatty acids, acetic acid, propionic acid and butyric acid in these chambers by microbes (bacteria, protozoa, and fungi). Protein and non-structural carbohydrate (pectin, sugars, starches) are also fermented.
Even though the rumen and reticulum have different names they represent the same functional space as digesta can move back and forth between them. Together these chambers are called the reticulorumen. The degraded digesta, which is now in the lower liquid part of the reticulorumen, then passes into the next chamber, the omasum, where water and many of the inorganic mineral elements are absorbed into the blood stream. After this the digesta is moved to the last chamber, the abomasum. The abomasum is the direct equivalent of the monogastric stomach (for example that of the human or pig), and digesta is digested here in much the same way. Digesta is finally moved into the small intestine, where the digestion and absorption of nutrients occurs. Microbes produced in the reticulo-rumen are also digested in the small intestine. Fermentation continues in the large intestine in the same way as in the reticulorumen.
Almost all the glucose produced by the breaking down of cellulose and hemicellulose is used by microbes in the rumen, and as such ruminants usually absorb little glucose from the small intestine. Rather, ruminants' requirement for glucose (for brain function and lactation if appropriate) is made by the liver from propionate, one of the volatile fatty acids made in the rumen .

Religious importance

In Abrahamic religions, a distinction between clean and unclean animals approximately falls according to whether the animal ruminates. The Law of Moses in the Bible allowed only the eating of animals that had split hooves and swallowed their food multiple times, a stipulation preserved to this day in the Kashrut. The close relation to rumination is apparent in many English translations of the Bible, which use the word cud in an expanded sense to indicate food that is re-chewed through either rumination or the process used by lagomorphs.
Islam considers a mammal halal only if it is ruminate.

Other uses

The verb to ruminate has been extended metaphorically to mean to thoughtfully ponder or to meditate on some topic. Similarly, ideas may be chewed on or digested. Chew the (one's) cud is to reflect or meditate.

See also


ruminant in Czech: Přežvýkavec
ruminant in Danish: Drøvtygger
ruminant in Spanish: Rumiante
ruminant in Esperanto: Remaĉuloj
ruminant in French: Ruminant
ruminant in Korean: 반추 동물
ruminant in Icelandic: Jórturdýr
ruminant in Dutch: Herkauwers
ruminant in Japanese: 反芻
ruminant in Polish: Przeżuwacze
ruminant in Portuguese: Ruminantes
ruminant in Vietnamese: Động vật nhai lại

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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