Home » Biology » Carnivores And Herbivores

Carnivores And Herbivores

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

  • Carnivores or Carnivorous animals
  • Herbivores or Herbivorous animals

Carnivorous animals that derive their nutrient requirements from other animals. Conversely, herbivores are the 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 which feed on plants, leaves, fruits and other natural food for nutrition. They are known as primary consumers and lie at level 2 in the food chain. Cow, goat, giraffe, sheep, zebra, etc are herbivores. The herbivores that feed on fruits are known as frugivores while folivores are herbivores that feed on leaves.

Herbivores Characteristics

Characteristics of herbivores animals include:

  1. They feed specifically on plants.
  2. They require sufficient energy to survive.
  3. Herbivorous animals start digesting the food as soon as it enters the mouth due to the acidic saliva.
  4. Few herbivores have a pair of sharp-edged, broad front teeth which helps in gnawing food products.

Also read: Digestion In Ruminants

Examples of Herbivorous Animals

Following are some of the examples of herbivorous animals:

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

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 such as lion and tiger have sharp teeth and powerful jaws to kill prey.
  2. Baleen whales are also predators. They hunt krill using their baleen plates as filter-feeding systems.
  3. Animals such as chameleons and some frogs have long sticky tongues to catch prey.
  4. Most carnivores are usually fast as they need to chase and tire their prey.
  5. Some carnivorous animals like snakes and spiders use venom to kill their prey.
  6. Carnivores do not have the ability to detoxify vitamin A in the liver.
  7. The length of the intestine in the 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 CarnivoreFood they consume
AviovoreConsume birds
InsectivoresConsume insects
VermivoreConsume worms
HematophageConsume blood
PiscivoreConsume fish
OviovoreConsume 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, wolves.


Scavengers are animals that feed on dead and decaying animals for food. For eg., eagles, 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% 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 of the examples of carnivorous animals:

  • Carnivorous mammals include tiger, lion, cheetah, etc.
  • Black eagle, kite, hawk are carnivorous birds.
  • Alligator, crocodile, snake, komodo dragon are some of the carnivorous reptiles.
  • Whale, shark, 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.
  • All carnivores descend from a common ancestor.
  • 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 @ CoolGyan’S Biology

Frequently Asked Questions

How are herbivores different from carnivorous animals?

Herbivores are the 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. Lion, tiger, leopards are carnivorous animals.

Are amoebae classified as carnivores or herbivores?

Ameobae 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 microorganism and plants.

Why are humans classified as omnivores?

The human 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 as 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 cellulose found in plants. The plants they eat get accumulated in a special compartment in their stomach called rumen. Here the cellulose gets partially digested by the bacteria forming a cud.