Elephants are the largest land mammal. They eat grasses, small plants, bushes, fruit, twigs, tree bark, and roots. Up to eighty percent of their day can be spent feeding or looking for food. Sometimes they will dig up ground looking for salt or minerals. Tree bark is one of their favorite foods, and is a source of calcium and fiber. Elephants can consume over 300 pounds of vegetation daily. Their diet varies seasonally – in the wet period the eat more grasses and during the dry one they eat more trees and shrubs. Elephant dung and the seeds they eliminate and leave on ground contribute significantly to their ecosystems.
Gorillas are the largest primates in the world and they eat almost an entirely planted-based diet, though they may at times also eat termites, ants or worms. Fruits, leaves, shoots, seeds, flowers are the great majority of what they eat, and they can consume up to forty to fifty pounds a day. Adult males are massive, weighing 350-450 pounds and have tremendous physical strength. Females typically weigh 150-250 pounds. In the wild gorillas can live thirty to forty years, and in captivity about ten years longer. Tragically, gorilla meat is considered a delicacy by some humans and it is served in some restaurants.
Wild horses consume a diet of 80-90 percent grasses. For example, in an area of Colorado the horses living there consume galleta grass, Indian ricegrass, winterfat, and needle-and-thread grass. (They also eat green rabbitbrush, shadscale, and black sage). Horses have a simple stomach (not the compartmentalized ruminant one cows have) and a small intestine up to seventy feet long for digestion of plant material. Naturally horses tend to consume small amounts frequently, but domestication has changed that behavior, says an Ohio State bulletin. Some plants are toxic to horses though, so domesticated horses must be fed carefully managed diets. Trailblazer magazine published an article about some of those plants. A small amount of oleander (one ounce) is reportedly enough to kill a horse.
Hippos spend most of their days in water, but come out at night to graze on grasses. They can eat 80 – 150 pounds of grass in a day, according to the Honolulu Zoo. Though in water they appear docile and mostly move very slowly, on land they can outrun a human in a short sprint. Males can weigh up to 9,000 pounds.
Giraffes don’t consume nearly as much as grass as hippos or horses. The prefer leaves and buds on trees and shrubs, flowers and fruit and vines. Specifically, Acacia leaves and shoots are a big part of their diet. They also adapt their diets to the regions they forage within, and by what is available seasonally. About three-quarters of a giraffe’s day is spend foraging and feeding during the dry season. Sometimes they feed on moonlight nights. Acacia seeds are dispersed by giraffes in unshaded areas, which helps grow more plants.
Image Credit: Paul Maritz – Wiki Commons