'') feeds on feces
Coprophagia () or coprophagy () is the consumption of feces
. The word is derived from the Greek
κόπρος ', "feces" and φαγεῖν ', "to eat". Coprophagy refers to many kinds of feces-eating, including eating feces of other species (heterospecifics), of other individuals (allocoprophagy), or one's own (autocoprophagy) – those once deposited or taken directly from the anus
In humans, coprophagia has been described since the late 19th century in individuals with mental illnesses and in unconventional sexual acts. Some animal species eat feces as a normal behavior, in particular lagomorphs
, which do so to allow tough plant materials to be digested more thoroughly by passing twice through the digestive tract. Other species may eat feces under certain conditions
Coprophagia by humans
As a supposed medical treatment
Centuries ago, physicians tasted their patients' feces, to better judge their state and condition.
Lewin reported, "... consumption of fresh, warm camel
feces has been recommended by Bedouin
s as a remedy for bacterial dysentery
; its efficacy (probably attributable to the antibiotic subtilisin
from ''Bacillus subtilis
'') was anecdotally confirmed by German soldiers in Africa during World War II".
As a paraphilia
is a paraphilia
), where the object of sexual interest is feces, and may be associated with coprophagia. Coprophagia is sometimes depicted in pornography
, usually under the term "scat" (from scatology
A notorious example of this is the pornographic shock video
''2 Girls 1 Cup
''The 120 Days of Sodom
'', a 1785 novel by Marquis de Sade
, is full of detailed descriptions of erotic sadomasochistic coprophagia. Austrian actor and pornographic director created the series "Avantgarde Extreme" and "Portrait Extrem", which explores coprophagy, coprophilia, and urolagnia. GG Allin
, an American shock rock
singer-songwriter, often featured coprophagy in his performances.
Coprophagia has also been observed in some people with schizophrenia
, in his classic ''Gargantua and Pantagruel
'', often employs the expression ''mâche-merde'' or ''mâchemerde'', meaning "shit-chewer". This, in turn, comes from the Greek comedians Aristophanes
and particularly Menander
, who often use the term ''skatophagos'' (σκατοφάγος).
's award-winning 1973 novel ''Gravity's Rainbow
'' contains a detailed scene of coprophagia.
Modern Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin
's novel ''Norma'' describes a society where coprophagia is institutionalized and mandatory.
Coprophagia by nonhuman animals
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Coprophagous insects consume and redigest
the feces of large animals. These feces contain substantial amounts of semidigested food
, particularly in the case of herbivore
s, owing to the inefficiency of the large animals' digestive systems
. Thousands of species of coprophagous insects are known, especially among the orders Diptera
. Examples of such flies are ''Scathophaga stercoraria
'' and ''Sepsis cynipsea
'', dung flies commonly found in Europe around cattle droppings. Among beetles, dung beetle
s are a diverse lineage, many of which feed on the microorganism-rich liquid component of mammals' dung, and lay their eggs in balls composed mainly of the remaining fibrous material.
s eat one another's feces as a means of obtaining their hindgut protist
s. Termites and protists have a symbiotic
relationship (e.g. with the protozoan that allows the termites to digest the cellulose in their diet). For example, in one group of termites, a three-way symbiotic relationship exists; termites of the family Rhinotermitidae, cellulolytic protists of the genus ''Pseudotrichonympha'' in the guts of these termites, and intracellular bacterial symbionts of the protists.
Domesticated and wild mammals are sometimes coprophagic, and in some species, this forms an essential part of their method of digesting tough plant material.
Some dogs may lack critical digestive enzymes when they are only eating processed dried foods, so they gain these from consuming fecal matter. They only consume fecal matter that is less than two days old which supports this theory.
Species within the Lagomorpha
s, and pika
s) produce two types of fecal pellets: hard ones, and soft ones called cecotrope
s. Animals in these species reingest their cecotropes, to extract further nutrients. Cecotropes derive from chewed plant material that collects in the cecum
, a chamber between the large and small intestine, containing large quantities of symbiotic bacteria that help with the digestion of cellulose and also produce certain B vitamins. After excretion
of the soft cecotrope
, it is again eaten whole by the animal and redigested in a special part of the stomach. The pellets remain intact for up to six hours in the stomach; the bacteria within continue to digest the plant carbohydrates. This double-digestion process enables these animals to extract nutrients that they may have missed during the first passage through the gut, as well as the nutrients formed by the microbial activity.
This process serves the same purpose within these animals as rumination
(cud-chewing) does in cattle and sheep.
in the United States are often fed chicken litter
. Concerns have arisen that the practice of feeding chicken litter to cattle could lead to bovine spongiform encephalopathy
(mad-cow disease) because of the crushed bone meal
in chicken feed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration
regulates this practice by attempting to prevent the introduction of any part of cattle brain or spinal cord into livestock
feed. Other countries, such as Canada, have banned chicken litter for use as a livestock feed.
The young of elephant
s, giant pandas
s, and hippo
s eat the feces of their mothers or other animals in the herd, to obtain the bacteria
required to properly digest vegetation
found in their ecosystems. When such animals are born, their intestine
s are sterile and do not contain these bacteria. Without doing this, they would be unable to obtain any nutritional value from plants.
s, guinea pigs
, and naked mole-rat
s eat their own droppings, which are thought to be a source of vitamin
, produced by gut bacteria. Sometimes, there is also the aspect of self-anointment
while these creatures eat their droppings. On rare occasions gorilla
s have been observed consuming their feces, possibly out of boredom, a desire for warm food, or to reingest seeds contained in the feces.
Coprophagia by plants
Some carnivorous plants, such as pitcher plants of the genus ''Nepenthes
'', obtain nourishment from the feces of commensal
* Fecal bacteriotherapy
* Fecal-oral route
, a route of disease transmission
* Coprophilous fungi
* Pig toilet
* ''Kopi luwak
Why Does My Dog Eat Feces?''
- Theresa A. Fuess, Ph.D, College of Vet Medicine