Is it normal for a horse to consume feces?

Horses July 19, 2006|Print
Some horses, particularly young foals and confined horses, practice coprophagy (eating of feces). The answer to the question is yes under certain circumstances, particularly as it pertains to foals. In an adult horse, the practice is normal, but if the practice is frequent and obsessive, the horse's diet should be evaluated for deficiencies in protein, fiber and/or other nutrients. The cause of coprophagy in horses has not yet been determined. Adult horses under research conditions have eaten feces when protein is deficient, but stopped when a protein supplement was provided and the deficiency corrected. More often foals practice coprophagy when less than eight weeks of age. The practice decreases as the foal ages. Foals more often eat the fresh feces of their own mother and rarely eat their own feces, those of another horse or feces that are dry. This is considered a normal behavior. Recent work at the University of Georgia demonstrates that an odor emitted by the feces of the mare attracts the foal to the feces. Foals possibly consume the feces to acquire substances that are required for normal gastrointestinal development such as intestinal microbes.