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10 Animals That Eat Bones (Interesting Facts)

Since bones are difficult to digest, most animals don’t include them in their diet. With that said, there are several bone-eaters in the animal kingdom. Read on to learn more about the animals that eat bones and why they include bones in their diet.

10 Animals That Eat Bones

1. Bearded Vultures

Gypaetus barbatus.
Gypaetus barbatus | Image by Mietzekatze from Pixabay

Vultures are scavengers, which means they feed on the bodies of dead animals. While most vultures eat animal carcasses, bearded vultures feed almost entirely on bone. It’s estimated that 90% of their diet is bone!

To break bones down, these birds drop them from high heights. After that, they eat the bone marrow and the small bone shards. Bearded vultures have strong gastric acid, and their digestive system is able to break down hard foods like bone.

2. Hyenas

Hyenas trying to escape
Hyena’s trying to escape | Image by Alexander Strachan from Pixabay

Hyenas have some of the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom! Depending on the species, the bite force of a hyena can be as high as 1,100 psi, which allows them to easily bite through bone. A hyena can apply more than 800 pounds of pressure with its bite!

Eating meat and bone shards allows the hyena to absorb all the nutrients it needs. Bones are an excellent source of calcium and phosphorus and help to keep hyenas well-nourished. After hyenas break bones down, there are also many birds that like to feed on the shards they leave behind.

3. Grizzly Bears

Grizzly Bears
Grizzly Bear | Image by Joaquin Aranoa from Pixabay

In winter, grizzly bears enter a state of mild hibernation known as torpor. During this stage, grizzlies don’t eat or drink and live off their fat stores. When they come out of torpor, their body is usually lacking in many of the essential nutrients that it needs.

To make up for this nutritional deficiency, grizzlies turn to bones! Bears will munch on bones and antlers so that they can replenish the nutrient stores in their bodies. Once bears have gotten the nutrients they need, they go back to their usual diet of insects, berries, fish, and animal protein.

4. Porcupines

Porcupine spreading its quills
Porcupine spreading its quills | Image by Tom from Pixabay

Porcupines change their diet with the season, eating leaves, berries, tree bark, and other foods that they have access to. Although the porcupine is a herbivore, you can also spot this animal munching on bones! In fact, it’s not unusual for porcupines to collect bones and store them in their den.

While porcupines don’t actually use bones as a food source, chewing on hard bone helps to sharpen their teeth and prevents them from becoming overgrown. In the process, porcupines wind up ingesting a lot of bone shavings.

5. Giraffes

Giraffe next to a tall tree
Giraffe next to a tall tree | Image by HowardWilks from Pixabay

Even though giraffes mostly eat plants, like tree leaves and grass, they occasionally munch on bone! Giraffes aren’t always able to get the calcium and phosphorous they need from their normal diet, and to supplement that, they chew on bones as well!

While giraffes can’t easily digest bone, they’re able to get around that by chewing and sucking on bone shards that they place in their mouth. This allows them to absorb the nutrients from bones without swallowing them. In addition to eating bones, giraffes feed on horns, antlers, and ivory.

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6. Cows

Cows roaming in the grass field
Cows roaming in the grass field | image by steve p2008 via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

A cow’s diet is mostly made up of grasses and hay. While cows can usually get all of the nutrients that they need from grass, this isn’t always the case. When the grass cows are eating is low in phosphorus, they naturally develop a craving for bones.

If a cow craves bones, it will feed on the carcasses of animals that it comes across, which puts it at risk for botulism. To prevent this, cows are frequently fed bonemeal. This is a mixture of sterile, finely ground animal bones and other ingredients and can safely provide cows with the nutrients their bodies need.

7. Wolverines

Wolverine sitting on a log
Wolverine sitting on a log | image by Mathias Appel via Flickr

Wolverines are nocturnal hunters with strong jaws and teeth that can easily bite through flesh and bone. As a matter of fact, their teeth are so strong that they can actually crack through bones and feed on the marrow inside. Usually, wolverines will scavenge for large bones that will provide them with plenty of marrow.

In addition to eating bones, wolverines will sometimes eat the teeth of the animals that they feed on! While wolverines are carnivores, scavenging for bones helps these animals get the nourishment they need when food is scarce. They’ll eat bone marrow throughout the year, but are more likely to look for bones in the winter.

8. Tortoises

Galapagos Tortoise
Galapagos Tortoise | Image by Penny from Pixabay

Tortoises primarily feed on plants, and it’s rare to see them eat bones in the wild. However, bone-eating is regularly seen in tortoises that are in captivity. While bones can be a source of valuable nutrients, some experts think that tortoises munch on bone as a way to maintain their shells.

Bones aren’t the only hard substance that tortoises like to munch on. These animals can also be seen ingesting stones and rocks. Since tortoises digest food slowly, they will usually only eat a small amount of bone or stone before moving on to other foods that are easier to digest.

9. Boneworms

True to their name, boneworms have an insatiable craving for bone! These aquatic worms, which are found within the deep sea, are sometimes called zombie worms. They’re able to bore into the carcasses of whales and digest the fats found inside the whale’s bones.

Not only do these worms have an unusual diet, but they also have a strange way of eating! Their skin secretes an acid that is able to dissolve bone. This allows the worms to access the fat and protein that’s trapped inside the bone.

10. Crocodiles

Crocodile | Image by miniformat65 from Pixabay

When crocodiles catch their prey, they’ll often swallow it whole! This means that they eat the bones of any animal that they feed on. Thanks to these eating habits, crocodiles are able to go weeks or even months between meals.

How are crocodiles able to break down and digest hard substances like bone? Crocodiles intentionally eat rocks and are able to store them in their digestive system. These rocks, which are known as gizzard stones, help crocodiles to crush hard substances like bone so that they can be properly digested.

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