What Animals Eat Grass? 15 Examples (with Pictures)

Photo: Thomas Quine / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Grass is the primary source of food for many animals around the world, and in today’s list, we’ll be learning what animals eat grass. You’ll notice that grass comprises the largest part of these animals’ diets, making them depend almost solely on it.

It’s no wonder that so many animals evolved in this direction, as grass is one of few plants that can be found on every continent and is rarely scarce, barring winters and dry periods.

 You’ll find a list of animals that eat grass below:

  • Rabbits
  • Llamas
  • Giraffes
  • Elephants
  • Deer
  • Moose
  • Pandas
  • Hippos
  • Kangaroos
  • Antelopes
  • Sloth
  • Bison
  • Rhinos
  • Zebras
  • Wildebeest

* Note: animals are ranked in order of their search volume.

1. Rabbits

Photo: Kevin Jump / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientific name (family): Leporidae

In case you were wondering what small animals eat grass; rabbits are herbivores (plant eaters) and their diet consists exclusively of grass and leafy plants that they can reach at ground level. They usually eat in the late afternoon, when they graze heavily.

Later on, they’ll slow down and eat slower. They’ll make quite a few trips for their meals if it’s safe to go outside. A rabbit will retreat back into its burrow if it senses danger when it’s eating. This is why they’re constantly smelling and listening during their feeding time.

2. Llamas

Photo: Thomas Quine / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name (genus): Lama

There are four species of llama and all four of them are herbivores, and these animals eat grass in incredible amounts in relation to their own body weight. A 160-pound llama can eat up to 3.5 pounds of grass a day.

Younger llamas will usually eat more than older llamas since they’re in a phase of intense development and need a lot of nutrients on a daily basis. With this diet, they can reach incredible weights of more than 500 pounds!

3. Giraffes

Photo: Steven & Claire Farnsworth / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name (genus): Giraffa

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Giraffes are the tallest living terrestrial animals in the world, and it’s no wonder that these giants eat incredible amounts of food. They usually feed on grass, shrubbery and tree foliage – this isn’t difficult for them to reach because of their height.

In a day, they’ll eat up to 75 pounds of foliage. They, however, prefer tree leaves to grass, as they offer more nutrients than the grass drying under the intense African sun.

4. Elephants

Photo: Vaughan Leiberum / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name (Family): Elephantidae

It doesn’t matter if you find them in Asia or in Africa, these massive animals eat grass as part of their diet every day. Additionally, elephants eat tree leaves and even fruit.

If you were wondering what animals eat the most grass, know that an elephant can consume as much as 330 pounds of foliage and grass a day! They use their trunk to rip grass and shrubbery from the ground without bending down to eat.

5. Deer

Photo: John Stratford / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Scientific name (family): Cervidae

Deer utilize food as a primary part of their diet, but they won’t just eat any grass. They’re picky eaters, and they’ll usually eat only the freshest of grass. Their nutritional needs are high, but they don’t eat a lot.

Instead, they stick to the good stuff, fresh grass, healthy leaves and flowers – even fruit if they come across some. Zoologists agree that males need more nutrients than females because of the growth of horns – this especially refers to calcium.

Interestingly, if you were wondering which animal eats grass and meat, know that there are reports of deer actually eating found animal carcasses and chewing on bones.

6. Moose

Photo: Al_HikesAZ / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Alces alces

A moose needs to eat 70 pounds of food on a daily basis to maintain its weight, so they’re not particularly picky eaters. They’ll eat grass, forbs, even tree bark and many water plants.

Just like deer and giraffes, they won’t eat just any grass. They’ll instead carefully pick food with less fiber and more nutrients. Interestingly, unlike most herbivores, moose can’t digest hay and eating it can be fatal.

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7. Pandas

Giant Pandas
Photo: Hugh Llewelyn / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca

This bear, indigenous to China, is known to primarily feed off of bamboo in the wild. This is because these bears usually live in bamboo forests. They will, however, eat grass if bamboo is lacking.

Giant Pandas will also eat meat if provided, but they very rarely hunt anything and instead focus on eating plants. They need to eat at least 30 pounds of plants on a daily basis. That is, believe it or not, barely enough for them which is why most pandas are tired and unenergetic in their behavior.

8. Hippos

Photo: Amanda / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Hippopotamus amphibius

These giants are some of the heaviest terrestrial animals, relative to their height, as they usually weigh around 3000 pounds. Keeping that in mind, it’s no wonder that these animals eat grass in preposterous amounts of 150 pounds a night!

They’re quite the opposite of many animals on this list, as their diet primarily consists of grass, but they’re willing to eat other things if grass is lacking. Hippos will sometimes eat water plants if they can’t find enough grass.

9. Kangaroos

Photo: Scott Caleja / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name (family): Macropodidae

Diets are different, depending on the species of kangaroo. They’re all herbivores, though – with the eastern grey kangaroo predominately feeding on grass. Red kangaroos, for example, feed on both grass and shrubbery.

They usually eat in the evening, early morning and during the night, as the ground is usually too hot for them to walk on during the day. Some species are also incorporating fungi in their diet.

10. Antelopes

Photo: Shankar S /  Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name (family): Bovidae

Many antelope species depend on grass in interesting ways. Their diets mostly consist of fresh grass, which is why they’ll migrate where it’s wet, following fresh grass.

It’s not odd to see their numbers concentrated in a wet area with a lot of rain where grass grows quickly. If grass is scarce, antelopes will often eat foliage from trees and bushes.

11. Sloth

Photo: Henryalien / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Scientific name (suborder): Folivora

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Sloths are some of the slowest animals on the planet when it comes to their movements, and they rarely eat grass. Because of their natural lack of speed, they stay up in the trees to keep themselves safe from predators.

This (often ineffective) strategy means that they’ll usually eat tree foliage. However, they’ll sometimes drop to the ground and eat grass (usually when they’re on their way to defecate).

12. Bison

Photo: Shelly Prevost / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Scientific name (genus): Bison

It was once thought that bison were animals that eat grass exclusively, but we now know that it’s only a part of their diet. They’ll adapt their diet to the season, always making sure that they’re eating the most nutrient-rich vegetation.

These animals are particularly picky about their food, especially during the spring, when the protein concentration in their food gets to an all-year high. They’ll also eat other plants, such as woody plants and shrubbery.

13. Rhinos

Photo: Colin the Scot / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Scientific name (family): Rhinocerotidae

All species of the rhinoceros eat grass, and they usually prefer shorter grains. The white rhinoceros is actually one of the largest animals that eat grass. A rhino will spend half of its day eating grass!

These animals are crucial to the ecology of the area they inhabit because of the amount of grass they eat and because they shape the habitat. Unfortunately, all rhinos are seriously threatened by poachers.

14. Zebras

Photo: snarglebarf / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name (subgenus): Hippotigris

These beautiful animals eat grass primarily, but will also eat sedges, tree bark and leaves if they can’t find enough grass. They usually spend almost the entire day feeding.

A herd of zebras can mow an entire patch of grass in a day, effectively changing the outlook of the savannah, which is why they’re major players in South Africa’s ecosystem.

15. Wildebeest

Photo: Dennis Jarvis / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name (genus): Connochaetes

Also called ‘gnus’, these animals are native to east and south Africa, but they’ll migrate around looking for food. These animals, usually traveling in massive herds, feed almost exclusively on food – which is why they like grasslands more than any other habitat.

They’ll also eat shrubbery to survive, and they’re another crucial link in Africa’s food chain. 

To End

Many herbivores make grass their primary source of food, while some can eat it in massive amounts – up to 330 pounds a day. Most animals eat grass not because it’s a rich source of nutrients (as it rarely is), but because it’s available everywhere.

Most of these animals will also eat the grass when it’s started to wither, as that poses no problem for digestion and it fills their stomachs just the same. However, compared to tree leaves, grass isn’t a rich nutrient.

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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