How Many Stomachs Does A Cow Have? Fun Facts You didn't Know

Anusuya Mukherjee
Oct 17, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Oct 22, 2021
Cow on a summer pasture.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.8 Min

Cows have a digestive system that is very different from that of humans.

It is actually amazing how a cow's digestive system works. The cow's stomach carries out many activities like fermentation and rumination.

The compartments in the digestive system like the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum along with the small intestine and large intestine help in absorbing nutrients. The absorbed nutrients provide energy for the cows.

This ruminant animal has microbes that aids in milk production. Cows are not the only ones with several stomachs.

Other animals like sheep, goats, deer, and antelope also have four stomachs. Cows take a lot of time to chew and almost spend half of their day chewing food.

The cow's four stomachs one stomach break down the food and complete 90 percent of the digestion and absorption process. The few particles that are not digested go to the intestines to get digested.

Bacteria present in the stomach chambers help is fermentation. We have put together a bunch of interesting facts along with knowledgeable information on the cow's stomach, chewing habits, and how they digest food.

Do not miss out on this and keep reading. Once you have finished this article, do check out our other articles on how many legs do spiders have and how many legs do ants have.

How many stomachs does a cow have?

The stomach is a vital body part in any animal as well as all human beings and birds. It helps not only in the digestion of food but also in storing them.

It covers the whole digestive system that aids in digestion. The main function is secreting acids and enzymes that break down complex food materials and convert them into energy.

Surprisingly, some animals have many stomachs. Now, this does not mean they have multiple guts and look like some alien. They have one large stomach that has multiple compartments.

This makes it look like they have multiple stomachs. Such animals with multiple stomachs are called Ruminant animals. Some of the ruminant animals are whales, cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, deer, and cows.

This part of the body is also important in cows. Cows have four stomachs or one stomach that is large and has four compartments. Similar to all other organs, the four compartments in a cow's stomach have a role to play. They also display unique characteristics and are quite different from one another.

The common misconception is cows have four hearts, just like the four stomachs. This is not the case. Cows have a single heart like every other mammal.

How many chambers does a cow stomach have?

The digestive system in a cow's stomach consists of the mouth, esophagus, four chambers stomach, including the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum, small intestine, and large intestine.

All these cow stomach chambers have their own roles in the cow's digestive process. It is quite different from the process that takes place in a human stomach.

Cows mainly eat grass. When the grass enters the mouth, cows combine it with a good amount of saliva before sending the grass to these compartments. Once they have completed their respective roles in the cow's digestive process, these compartments send the grass to the small intestine and a large intestine.

Rumen: The rumen is also called the punch and is the first compartment where the food enters. It is a large pouch-like structure.

The rumen is the primary section out of all the four components. It is also the largest section.

Rumen aids in the breakdown of complex plant products such as grass. There is no digestive lining in this chamber. This is a huge chamber, generally with a complicated form, that aids in the storage of food after it has been consumed.

While it cannot digest food, it does contain a variety of bacteria, protozoans, and even fungus that aid in the fermentation of food so that the animal may digest it later. This fermentation creates a lot of gas, which causes ruminants to belch a lot of methane.

Reticulum: The reticulum is also known as the honeycomb. It is also a pouch-like structure that is placed close to the heart of the cow.

Since the tissues in this pouch are formed like a honeycomb, it was given the nickname.

The liquid from the rumen process drains into the reticulum, the second chamber, where fermentation continues, but the solid meal is partially regurgitated back into the mouth for a second chewing session. This is known as chewing the cud because it aids in the digestion of the meal.

The reticulum is a spongy organ that functions similarly to the rumen and produces honeycomb tripe, a type of meal. Cud is produced in the reticulum, where the meal is mixed with the saliva of the cow.

Cows eat the cud by burping it into their mouths and chewing it to help break it down further. When you encounter a cow that appears to be eating bubble gum, she is chewing her cud.

The reticulum catches everything the cow shouldn't consume, such as fences piece, pebbles, and wire.

The reticulum also softens and produces tiny wads of cud from the grass that has been chewed. The chewed cud, together with the fermented liquid, is sent straight to the omasum, the third chamber.

Omasum: The omasum is also known as many piles. It is a globe-shaped pouch. Because the omasum contains multiple layers, it has a bigger surface area and may absorb more crucial moisture. All of the water in the meal is absorbed here.

The substances present in the other digestive contents are also absorbed in the omasum. It is the smallest chamber. The cud is breakdown further in the omasum.

Abomasum: The abomasum is also known as the true stomach. The meal is eventually digested in the abomasum, identical to what happens in a human gut. It produces enzymes that break down protein and starch, assisting in digesting anything that hasn't been digested yet in the rumen.

This is the only compartment that is lined with glands. Hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes are produced by these glands, which are necessary for the digestion of food.

The abomasum resembles the stomach of a nonruminant animal. The digestion is finished by the abomasum. It transports vital nutrients to the circulation and the remainder to the intestines.

Cow and little calf grazing eating grass.

Why does a cow have four stomach compartments?

A cow's stomach compartments have four sections to carry out different digestion processes. The plant matter is broken down and converted to energy in this process.

When the cow eats grass it is mixed with saliva which passes through the esophagus and reaches the first chamber, rumen, and reticulum. Saliva is produced by several organs in the digestive system. Saliva is not just a liquid that makes the grinding process smooth, but also helps in the production of microbes.

Rumen: This compartment gets the mixture of grass and saliva passes to the rumen. The rumen is a fermentation tract. This fermentation tract consists of bacteria that disintegrates the cellulose consumed via plants. Plants have high levels of cellulose which takes time to break down.

Several bacteria grow in this compartment. They help in the fermentation process. It has a mat called the rumen mat. The rumen mat has some undigested matter.

It helps a lot in the production of milk. It can hold as much as 213 lb (97 kg) of food. There are small hair like structures that ensure that the food is absorbed. Saliva helps in maintaining the Ph level of the rumen.

Reticulum: This pouch, also known as the honeycomb, is close to the heart. The cow has a heavy diet, though it looks like it is just eating grass it has a lot of other feed material. Sometimes it can also consume nails and other metals along with its food.

The digestive system will react to it. Diseases like hardware disease can be contracted. Another function of the reticulum is that it acts as a storage house that stores large amounts of food.

Omasum: This is the next stop. The omasum has many paper pile-like layers, which absorbs the moisture from food.

Reticulum: The reticulum has many honeycomb-like tissues. These tissues send back a certain amount of food to the mouth, which needs to be chewed further and broken down.

This is why the cow's mouth is always busy and they chew a lot. This chewing process is called the chewing cud and the food that is not chewed is called cud. This is a recurring process, the cow brings up food that has not been digested and chews on them again.

This process is called rumination. A cow spends almost 50 percent of its day in the rumination process.

Omasum: The omasum has a very large surface area compared to all other chambers. This implies that it can absorb large amounts of the necessary moisture. The omasum might include other factors, which haven't been concluded yet.

Abomasum: Abomasum, also called the true stomach, is very similar to the human stomach. It will produce acids that will break down and digest the protein and starch content. This chamber will also break down the previously missed food that was not digested earlier. The surface area of the abomasum compartment is quite large.

For the food to completely get digested it has to be passed on to the small intestine.

Small intestine: It absorbs almost all of the nutrients.

Large intestine: The large intestine will carry out the mineral absorption process that is similar to the ones carried out in all animals. The left protein, mineral content, and other nutrients that were missed go through the absorption process here. These nutrients provide energy to the cow.

What is the stomach of a cow called?

The stomach of a cow is called a ruminant stomach. The name is given based on the process of breaking down food to increase digestion which is known as rumination. It is derived from a Latin word called ruminare which means to chew over again. There are around 200 ruminant animal species.

Other animals, which are members of the Artiodactyla family such as cattle, goats, sheep, bison, yaks, water buffalo, antelope, deer, and giraffes are also ruminants. These animals regurgitate partially chewed cud which is chewed again chewed and sent back.

These fur chambers along with the intestines work on digesting them with the help of bacteria that is present within them. The bacteria also help in the fermentation process.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how many stomachs does a cow has then why not take a look at how many teeth do sharks have, or how many teeth do snails have facts pages?

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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