Coprophagia/kɒp.rə.ˈfeɪ.dʒi.ə/ or coprophagy is the consumption of feces. The word is derived from the Greek κόπρος copros, "feces" and φαγεῖν phagein, "to eat". Many animalspecies eat feces as a normal behavior; other species may not normally consume feces but do so under unusual conditions. Coprophagy refers to many kinds of feces eating including eating feces of other species (heterospecifics),of other individuals (allocoprophagy), or its own (autocoprophagy), those once deposited or taken directly from the anus.
Coprophagous insects consume and redigest the feces of large animals. These feces contain substantial amounts of semi-digested food (herbivores' digestive systems are especially inefficient). A notable feces-eating insect is the dung-beetle and the most common is the fly.
Termites eat one another's feces as a means of obtaining their hindgutprotists. Termites and protists have a symbiotic relationship (e.g. with the protozoan Mixotricha paradoxa) that allows the termites to digest the cellulose in their diet via the protists. It has also been proposed that hormones are passed to offspring in this way.
Pigs sometimes eat the feces of herbivores that leave a significant amount of semi-digested matter, including their own. In some cultures, it was common for poor families to collect horse feces to feed their pigs. However, allowing domestic pigs to consume feces contributes to the risk of parasite infection. The pig toilet is an ancient method of feeding pigs on garbage and human feces, and is used in China.
Cattle in the United States are often fed chicken litter due to the high amount of protein and low cost of the feed compared to other sources of protein. It has been reported that this process is made safe in regards to bacteria loading by heating the chicken litter to 160 °F (71 °C) prior to consumption. There are, however, concerns that the practice of feeding chicken litter to cattle could lead to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad-cow disease) because of the crushed bone meal in chicken feed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates this practice by attempting to prevent the introduction of any part of a cow's brain or spinal cord into livestock feed. Other countries, like Canada, have banned chicken litter for use as a livestock feed.
Capybara, rabbits, hamsters and some other related species are hindgut fermenters which digest cellulose by microbial fermentation. In addition, they extract further nutrition from grass by ingesting their feces meaning their food passes through the gut a second time. Soft fecal pellets of partially digested food are excreted and generally consumed immediately. Consuming these cecotropes (or night feces produced in the cecum), is important for obtaining vitamin B12, which intestinal bacteria produce from Cobalt salts. Vitamin B12 must then be re-introduced to the digestive system since only the stomach (and not the intestines) is capable of absorbing vitamin B12. They also produce normal droppings, which are not eaten.
The young of elephants, pandas, koalas, and hippos eat the feces of their mothers or other animals in the herd to obtain the bacteria required to properly digest vegetation found on their ecosystems. When they are born, their intestines do not contain these bacteria (they are sterile). Without them, they would be unable to obtain any nutritional value from plants.
Gorillas eat their own feces and the feces of other gorillas. Similar behavior has also been observed among chimpanzees. Such behavior may serve to improve absorption of vitamins or of nutritive elements made available from the re-ingestion of seeds.
The introduction of foreign bacteria into the human gastrointestinal tract via infusion of fecal enemas is an established medical practice in cases of ulcerative colitis, especially where the patient's own intestinal flora has been significantly depleted by prior use of antibiotics.
Centuries ago, physicians used to taste their patients' feces, to better judge their state and condition.
Some human coprophiles engage in coprophagia as a sexual fetish. Until 1995, the only documented cases of coprophagia in humans were those with schizophrenia or other mental illness, but it has now been shown to occur among mentally healthy individuals. Psychiatrists using the classification system of the DSM-IV would consider this a symptom of the paraphilia called coprophilia - "if the behavior, sexual urges, or fantasies cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning". Coprophagia is also depicted in pornography, usually under the term scat (from scatology).
François Rabelais in his classic Gargantua and Pantagruel, often employs the expression mâche-merde or mâchemerde, meaning shit-chewer. It is in turn a citation of the Greek comedians Aristophanes and particularly Menander, which often use the term skatophagos (σκατοϕάγος). In one dialogue, Rabelais speaks of coprophagia as a Christian gesture, saying that monks swallow the shit of the world, that is the sins, and for this they are ostracized by society.
Vase de Noces; a farmer prepares and consumes a meal made of urine and feces, then regurgitates it.
Bronson; a patient in a mental institution is shown eating his own feces while another character watches in confusion.
The Acid House; in an adaptation from Irvine Welsh's collection of short stories of the same name, specifically 'The Granton Star Cause', the parent's of the protagonist engage in sadomasochism and as a 'punishment' the father has to consume his wife's excrement.
HumancentiPad; in the first episode of the fifteenth season of South Park, Kyle is kidnapped as a consequence of failing to read the terms of a product license and forced to become part of a "revolutionary new product" for which he and two others were kidnapped tor, the "HUMANCENTiPAD", consisting of the three kidnapped subjects on all fours sewn together mouth to anus (the storyline is based on The Human Centipede). Due to this, each human after the first must eat the previous human's feces, which is eventually used to power an iPad.
Brian & Stewie; in the seventeenth episode in the eighth season of Family Guy, Brian and Stewie become trapped in a bank vault. When the vault's door closes, Stewie is frightened and defecates into his diaper. He soon gets a diaper rash because of this, and suggests that Brian (a dog) "eat his poo", which Brian eventually does.
T.: The Terrestrial; in the sixteenth episode of the seventh season of Futurama, Fry becomes stranded on the planet Omicron Persei 8. In a parody of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jrrr (son of Lrrr, the planet's ruler) finds Fry and leaves a trail of his feces (which resemble Skittles) for Fry to follow, which Fry eats, calling it "Feces Pieces", much like Elliot leaving a trail of Reese's Pieces for E.T.
Punk musician GG Allin would frequently defecate and commit coprophagia onstage, in addition to smearing his feces on himself and throwing it at the audience.
For many years rumors existed that Frank Zappa had once committed coprophagia onstage. A variant rumor included Captain Beefheart in the proceedings.
^Harada KI, Yamamoto K, Saito T. (2006). "Effective treatment of coprophagia in a patient with schizophrenia with the novel atypical antipsychotic drug perospirone". Pharmacopsychiatry39 (3): 113. doi:10.1055/s-2006-941487. PMID16721701.
Coprophagia in the Canine - Erik Hofmeister; Melinda Cumming, DVM PhD; Cheryl Dhein, DVM, MS, DACVIM; Douglas Island Veterinary Service; detailed preliminary results of study of behavior and prevention in dogs