How Many Stomachs Does a Deer Have?

Basit Ali Chaudhary

Deer has a four-chambered stomach, just like many ruminants, but their stomach is much more different from other animals. It has four sections or chambers in its stomach named rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. Each section has its own workings and helps deer for easy digestion.

In the first chamber, the rumen, deer can store large amounts of vegetation at one time and digest it later. The second chamber is called the reticulum, which is responsible for breaking down the food into smaller pieces with the help of microorganisms present in it. The broken food is then taken to the third chamber, where water is absorbed, and then to the final chamber, the abomasum, where the food is finally digested.

By having such a fantastic digestive system, deer are not only able to maintain their own energy levels without constantly feeding but also able to gain nutrients from hard-to-digest plants by chewing them and bringing them back up again after they have consumed them.

Let’s dig deep and analyze in detail the four-chambered stomach of deer and how deer stomach works, and how it digests food.

How Deer Stores Food in Its Stomach 

Dee is ruminant. A ruminant is a type of mammal that has a unique stomach that allows it to digest plant products such as grasses and leaves in a different way. 

Deer have the ability to store a lot of food in their stomach. They store partially chewed food in the first chamber of their stomach. Deer regurgitate their food; they partially chew the food initially, just enough so they can swallow it. Then they bring the food back to their mouth and re-chew it before passing it into their final chamber for digestion. It’s called cud-chewing, and it helps the ruminant digest its cellulose-filled diet faster than other animals. In addition to giving them nutrition, this ability makes them incredibly adept at surviving on barren lands.

Working of Deer Four-Chambered Stomach 

Four chambered stomach of deer
Source: University of Pennsylvania

Deer dietary needs vary according to season and weather situations. The deer have evolved several adaptations to better digest the cellulose in their diet. With their specialized digestive system, deer can suppress their digestion of energy-rich components like sugars and fats while consuming more nutrient-dense fibrous plant material. Additionally, they use a symbiotic relationship with certain microorganisms to further break down cellulose and make it easier to digest. 

Let’s look in detail their working pattern for each chamber in their stomach:

1- Rumen

The rumen is the first section of the deer’s stomach. It acts as a storage chamber for deer. Deer stores all the food in this section. As already mentioned, they partially chew the food, and this half-chewed food in stored in this section of their stomach. Although it’s hard to tell how much food deer can store in its stomach, some experts claim it can store over two gallons of food in its rumen. Once their stomach is full, they will lie down and continue to regurgitate and chew their cud. Deer are also able to sustain their energy levels by using this stomach chamber in order to maintain their survival in the wild. 

2- Reticulum

The reticulum is the second chamber of the stomach in deer, and it contains microorganisms which help the digestion of food, as deer’s primary diet consists of plants, grass, and leaves. And all these contain cellulose which cant be easily digestible.  Here, the reticulum comes to play its role. Since this chamber contains microorganisms, these microbial organisms assist in breaking down cellulose into simpler compounds that can be more readily absorbed by deer. This process of breaking the food by microorganisms is called fermentation. The fermentation process produces a gas (methane) that the deer is required to regularly expel as well through burps and farts.  

Deer, when chewing their cud again, are able to retain many of the living microorganisms that were present before, resulting in a significant portion of the nutrition being derived from them once more. Therefore, the reticulum plays an integral role in providing the deer with the necessary nutrition it needs to survive.

3- Omasum

It’s the third chamber in the deer’s stomach. The filtered and chewed cud and cellulose from the second chamber goes to the third chamber, omasum, where water is absorbed from the chewed cud. 

This absorbed water is converted into energy and then gets distributed to different parts of the deer body according to the need of the deer.

4- Abomasum

The abomasum is the last chamber of the deer stomach, where food is finally and fully digested. This portion contains acidic and gastric juices required to completely digest the food. All the nutrients and minerals in food are fully extracted in this portion, and the remains are transferred to the intestines. It absorbs all the nutrients from the food and sends them into the body, where they are required to keep the deer healthy. Finally, when all useful substances have been taken up by the body, whatever leftovers remain will be passed off as waste droppings.

A View of Inside Deer Stomach

Have you imagined what’s inside a deer’s stomach or what a deer’s stomach looks like? I will show you today. Any animal’s inner workings are interesting, and deer are no exception! Food is broken down by the complex workings of organs, as described above. Its complex multi-chambered digestive system breaks down plant matter, so it can get nutrition. Not only does it break down food, but it also filters the dangerous toxins that would otherwise harm them.

See the picture below for an inner view of the deer stomach system.

Source: Wikipedia

What is Cud? Does Deer Chew Its Cud?

You might have probably heard of cud many times, but do you know what it is? It is semi-chewed food that is partially digested by animals and is then regurgitated from their mouths in order to be consumed at a later time. Cud chewing is common in the animals like deer, sheep and cows. 

Yes, deer chews its cud. A whitetail deer can chew its cud 40 times a day, while a mule deer chews 56 times. In fact, cud actually helps with digestion because it increases the surface area of the food that needs to be broken down by enzymes and acids in the stomach in order to digest it.

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