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Not to be confused with Coprographia.
A female Oriental Latrine Fly (Chrysomya megacephala) feeds on animal feces.

Coprophagia /kɒp.rə.ˈf.i.ə/[1] or coprophagy /kəˈprɒfə/ is the consumption of feces. The word is derived from the Greek κόπρος copros, "feces" and φαγεῖν phagein, "to eat". Many animal species 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.[2]

In animals[edit]


Two Common Blue butterflies lap at a small lump of feces lying on a rock.
A female fly feeding on feces

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 hindgut protists. 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.[citation needed]


Domesticated and wild mammals are known to consume feces. In the wild they either bury or eat waste to protect their trail from predators. Mother cats are known to eat the feces of their newborn kittens during the earliest phase after birth, presumably to eliminate cues to potential predators and to keep the den clean.[citation needed]

Hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas and naked mole-rat eat their own droppings, which are thought to be a source of vitamins B and K, produced by gut bacteria.[citation needed] Gorillas and chimpanzees eat their own feces and the feces of other gorillas and chimpanzees. This may serve to improve absorption of vitamins or of nutritive elements made available from the re-ingestion of seeds.[3] Apes have been observed eating horse feces for the salt content.[citation needed] Monkeys have been observed eating elephant feces.[citation needed]

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, which contributes to the risk of parasite infection.[citation needed] The pig toilet is an ancient method of feeding pigs on garbage and human feces, and is used in China.[citation needed]

Capybara, rabbits, and some other related species are hindgut fermenters which digest cellulose by microbial fermentation.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] They also produce normal droppings, which are not eaten.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[4] Other countries, like Canada, have banned chicken litter for use as a livestock feed.[citation needed]

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.[5] 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.

In plants[edit]

Some carnivorous plants, such as pitcher plants of the genus Nepenthes, obtain nourishment from the feces of commensal animals.[citation needed]

In humans[edit]

In medicine[edit]

Fecal bacteriotherapy is when feces from a close relative or spouse are given to patients suffering from intractable diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile. The objective is to repopulate the intestines with the normal gut flora (intestinal bacteria) which kill the clostridium. The healthy stool is administered by nasogastric tube, enema, or in a capsule.

Consuming other people's feces carries the risk of contracting diseases and bacteria spread such as E. coli, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E, pneumonia, polio, and influenza. Coprophagia also carries a risk of contracting intestinal parasites.

Lewin reported that "... consumption of fresh, warm camel feces has been recommended by Bedouins as a remedy for bacterial dysentery; its efficacy (probably attributable to the antibiotic subtilisin from Bacillus subtilis) was anecdotally confirmed by German soldiers in Africa during World War II".[6]

The introduction of foreign bacteria into the human gastrointestinal tract via infusion of fecal enemas was claimed in a 2003 publication to be an established medical practice[where?]in cases of ulcerative colitis,[dubious ] especially where the patient's own intestinal flora has been significantly depleted by prior use of antibiotics.[7]

Coprophagia has been observed in a small number of patients with schizophrenia,[8] depression,[9] and pica.[10]

Centuries ago, physicians used to taste their patients' feces, to better judge their state and condition.[11]

In sex[edit]

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 relatively mentally healthy individuals.[12] 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).[13]

In literature[edit]

In film[edit]

In TV series[edit]

In music[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Coprophagia. (2012). September 2, 2012, from link
  2. ^ Hirakawa, H (2001). "Coprophagy in leporids and other mammalian herbivores". Mammal Review 31 (1): 61–80. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2907.2001.00079.x. 
  3. ^ "Nutritional Aspects of the Diet of Wild Gorillas". Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  4. ^ FDA Urged to Ban Feeding Chicken Litter to Cattle, 2009-11-02, L.A. Times
  5. ^ "BBC Nature — Dung eater videos, news and facts". Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
  6. ^ Lewin, Ralph A. (2001). "More on merde". Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 44 (4): 594–607. doi:10.1353/pbm.2001.0067. PMID 11600805. 
  7. ^ Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis Using Fecal Bacteriotherapy.[dead link]
  8. ^ Harada KI, Yamamoto K, Saito T. (2006). "Effective treatment of coprophagia in a patient with schizophrenia with the novel atypical antipsychotic drug perospirone". Pharmacopsychiatry 39 (3): 113. doi:10.1055/s-2006-941487. PMID 16721701. 
  9. ^ Wise, T.N., and R.L. Goldberg (1995). "Escalation of a fetish: coprophagia in a nonpsychotic adult of normal intelligence". J Sex Marital Ther 21 (4): 272–5. doi:10.1080/00926239508414647. PMID 8789509. 
  10. ^ Rose, E.A., Porcerelli, J.H., & Neale, A.V. (2000). "Pica: Common but commonly missed". The Journal of the American Board of Family Practice 13 (5): 353–358. PMID 11001006. 
  11. ^ notes to The Works of Francis Rabelais, Volume II, Volume 2, p. 56
  12. ^ Wise TN, Goldberg RL (1995). "Escalation of a fetish: Coprophagia in a nonpsychotic adult of normal intelligence". Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy 21 (4): 272–75. doi:10.1080/00926239508414647. PMID 8789509. 
  13. ^ Holmes, Ronald M. Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behavior. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. pp. p. 244. ISBN 0-7619-2417-5. OCLC 47893709. 
  14. ^ le Marquis de Sade (1785) Les 120 journées de Sodome, ou L'École du Libertinage
  15. ^ Thomas Pynchon (1973) Gravity's Rainbow, Part 2, episode 4.
  16. ^ Rabelais, Book 1, ch. 40 and Book 3 chap. 25
  17. ^ Rabelais, Book 1, ch. 40 quote: "ilz mangent la merde du monde, c'est à dire, les pechez"

External links[edit]