Animals: Carnivore, Herbivore or Omnivore?

by Abigail Read

Fersiwn Cymraeg.

All animals, whether they live in the wild, captivity or our homes, need one thing…..

They all need to eat!

We’re going to look at the different types of food which different animals eat and suggest an activity to get Key Stage 1 and 2 pupils thinking about these differences.

Omnivore : Pigs, Hedgehogs, Chickens and Humans

Pigs Foraging for food (Photo: Lotse)

Pigs Foraging for food (Photo: Lotse- CC-BY-SA)

Omnivores get energy and nutrients from eating a diet containing plants, animals, algae and fungi. Due to the large variety of food options, they will eat what they can hunt and scavenge in their environment to make the most of what is available. If it looks edible, they’ll give it a try!


Carnivore : Lions (Felines), Toads, Snakes and Owls (Birds of Prey).

Barking Owl eating Mouse (photo: Andrew Mercer)

Barking Owl eating Mouse (photo: Andrew Mercer- CC-BY-SA)

Carnivores eat meat (and other animal tissue) to get the calories and energy to survive. Meat is a high energy food source. Carnivores find their food through predation or scavenging, and are often adapted with big claws, sharp teeth/beak and quick speed whether on land, in the sea or in the sky.

Herbivore : Horses, Rabbits, Zebra

Herbivores only eat plants to get energy and nutrients. Most animals will eat the leaves and fruits of plants as these tend to be the more nutritious. Plant vegetation, however, is very hard to break down into energy so most herbivores have a specialised digestive system.

Cow Digestive System (Image: Abigail Read)

Cow Digestive System. Image: science made simple (CC-BY-NC)

A cow will chew grass and swallow, nothing unusual so far. The food then passes through not one but two stomachs to be digested, and then is regurgitated (brought back up) to be re-chewed.  This part-digested grass is called cud It is then swallowed into third and fourth stomachs where the nutrients are absorbed into the blood.

Herbivores graze for long periods throughout a day to gain as much energy as possible.  So when you see a herd of cows looking like they’re just standing around chewing the cud they are- but their four stomachs are working hard to get the most out of every mouthful.



A great way to get kids out and about is to use the information above and turn it onto an identification game.

-Think of 5 animals which belong in different environments (e.g. a farm, in your garden, at the zoo, in the wood)

-Name 2 key features for each animal (e.g. sheep- Woolly and with tails)

-Go on a walk and see how many of these animals you spot

-For each animal, write down what you think it eats. Which of the 3 groups above do you think each animal fits into?



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Curriculum Links – Animals: Carnivore, Herbivore or Omnivore?

Key Stage 1:

Identify and name a variety of common animals including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals

Identify and name a variety of common animals that are carnivores, herbivores and omnivores

Describe and compare the structure of a variety of common animals (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, including pets)


Key Stage 2:

Identify that animals, including humans, need the right types and amount of nutrition, and that they cannot make their own food; they get nutrition from what they eat

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Posted in Activity, Biology, Primary