Is that cow chewing gum?

By Sandra Johnson

Maggie walked past the corral on her way to the chicken coop to gather eggs. She noticed the reddish-brown cow lying in the grass. The cow’s mouth was gently moving from side to side.

Maggie looked closer and realized that the cow was chewing. The cow stopped chewing and swallowed. Then, Maggie saw another movement. It looked like the cow was swallowing backward! It was almost as if a little ball was moving up the inside of the cow’s neck. After that, the cow started chewing again. Maggie wondered, “What is happening?” She thought the cow looked really funny. 

When Maggie returned to the house she put the basket of eggs by the sink and looked at her mom. She said, “Mom, I just saw the red cow doing this!” She showed her mom how the cow’s mouth moved from side to side. “It looked really funny, and she swallowed and then a round ball thing moved up her throat.”

“The cow is chewing her cud,” Mom explained. “That is how cows make the food they eat easier for their body to use.”

“Do other animals chew a cud?” Maggie asked.

“Some do, but others don’t need to. Their stomachs are made differently,” Mom said.

“Do horses have a cud?” Maggie asked.

“Horses don’t need a cud. They have a different kind of stomach,” Mom said.  “Animals that chew a cud are called ruminants. They have a special stomach with several parts.”

“What other animals chew a cud and are ruminants?” Maggie asked.

“Cattle, sheep, goats, deer, and even animals from far away like giraffes and camels also chew a cud and are ruminants,” said Mom.

“Wow! I never knew cows and so many other animals had a special kind of stomach! “ Maggie said. “I’m going to look around the farm for other animals chewing their cud.”

Learn more about cows and cud chewing here.

Take a ride through the digestive system of a ruminant in this video.

Learn about the digestive systems of rhinos, giraffes, and flamingos!

Photo by Colt Knight