The Inner Life of Animals by Peter Wohlleben

The Inner Life of Animals by Peter Wohlleben

Author:Peter Wohlleben
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Greystone Books
Published: 2016-11-23T05:00:00+00:00


26

SNIPE MESS

AS I HAVE already mentioned in the chapter “Shame and Regret,” our horses Zipy and Bridgi are fed a portion of concentrated feed at noon. The energy-rich grain is meant to beef them up a bit, especially our older horse, Zipy. Clearly, horses don’t chew their food very thoroughly, because we find a fair number of undigested seeds in their droppings. And now things get rather unappetizing, because our “house crows,” which are always hanging about close to the pasture, have their eye on these. They pick the horse apples apart and peck out individual oat seeds. Yummy? I think it looks pretty disgusting, and so the question is, how tasty can such excrement-coated food really be? Do animals have any sense of taste at all? They definitely do, but it is adapted to different traditional fare than our palates. (Of course, there are also differences in taste perceptions in people. Just think of the hundred-year eggs so beloved in China. To many Europeans, at least, these dark, translucent eggs conjure up visions of rot and decay rather than culinary delight.)

Our horses offer further proof of animals’ sense of taste. We have to worm them two or three times a year. To do this, we squeeze a medicinal paste from a tube into their mouth. Apparently, it doesn’t taste good at all, because when the two of them notice what’s about to happen, they really don’t want to be around us. However, the manufacturer has recently made some changes. The deworming treatment now comes in apple flavor, and horses love apples. Since then, the procedure has gone somewhat more smoothly. Dog owners are also well aware that their pets learn what they like and what they don’t like. For instance, if they change food brands, their four-legged companions sometimes refuse to eat. This was never a problem with Crusty, the French bulldog, who always ate with gusto; however, unfamiliar foods exacted their price, at least for us. A short time after such a meal, a stink cloud from Crusty’s rear end would waft through the air every ten minutes or so, filling the room.

And then there are rabbits, which are slightly more perverse even than crows when it comes to matters of taste. At least the birds only peck around in the fecal matter of others and restrict themselves to eating the seeds they find there, but rabbits and hares chow down on their own excrement. Though it must be said that they don’t eat all their droppings indiscriminately, just the special ones. Like all herbivores, they have bacteria in their gut that help them dissolve and digest chewed grasses and other herbaceous matter. There are specialized species in the cecum, in particular, that break down greens into their component parts. However, some of the end products can only be absorbed in the small intestine, which, annoyingly enough, comes before the cecum. And so the beneficial brew slides unused through the digestive tract and inevitably ends up in the outside world once again.



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