Digestive system

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The Horse’s digestive system

You can find more about horses here

of a horse


Small intestines

Colon ascendens

Colon descendens


How the
Digestive System Works

Your horse is a grass-eating machine! He has
evolved over millions of years to survive on a diet of
nothing but grass and although he is adaptable and can eat
grain and hay when we need him to, his digestive system is
designed as and will always work best as a perfectly oiled
grass processing system. A horse’s intestine is long and
can become tangled easily > Equine colic

The sections of this system;

1. The mouth and teeth: where food is chewed and ground
into small pieces. The tongue manoeuvres the food to the
back of the mouth to
the pharynx (throat),
where it enters the oesophagus (gullet) and is swept
down the dilated tube by swift peristaltic waves.

2. The food reaches the stomach, which is small and ‘J’
shaped. Here digestive juices (acids and enzymes) are added
and the mixture starts to be broken down. It then passes on
to …

3. Small intestine
(21-25 meters in lenght) in which protein splitting enzymes
are added to reduce the protein to amino acids which the
colon can absorb. Most parts of the food are here digested
and absorbed into the blood. Hay, grass stems and other
fibrous roughage are passed on into the …

4. Caecum, which is a
blind sac (about 1 meter), the bacteria here breaks down
the cellulose and converts it into fatty acids, which are
absorbed and passed to the liver. Here they are converted
into glucose for immediate use or stored for use later.

5. The remaining substance is passed from the ceacum into
the large colon, where
more bacterial action takes place. Nutrients are passed
through the colon wall into the blood stream. Large and
small colon are the large intestines: 7-9 meters long

6. The small colon is
where further nutrients and water are extracted and the
waste passes to the…

7. Rectum, where the
waste material is formed into balls of dung to be passed
out through the anus at
frequents intervals.

Horses are designed to eat grass, and the more natural
roughage we can feed, the better the digestive health of
the horse will be and the less likely you are to see
problems like colic or laminitis.

Here you can see the skeleton of a

Here you can see the skeleton of a dog

Here you can see an X-ray of a cat