Difference Between Herbivores Carnivores and Omnivores

Main Difference – Herbivores vs Carnivores vs Omnivores

One way to group animals is by considering their food and dietary patterns. There are three groups of animals that fit into this classification: herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. The main difference between Herbivores Carnivores and Omnivores is their food type. Herbivores are the animals that rely only on plant materials, and carnivores rely only on meat. Omnivores are the animals that prefer to eat both meat and plant matter. In addition to their diet, there are many differences among the animals belong to these three categories. Many of their physiological features, especially the digestion system and mouth parts are built based on their dietary pattern. The presence of animals belonging to these three categories is extremely useful in maintaining the energy balance of ecosystem through food chains.

What are Herbivores | Diet, Physiological Features

Herbivores are the plant eaters and considered as primary members of the food chain. They can directly store energy, which is stored in plants. When compared to carnivores and omnivores, herbivores have characteristic teeth, which include; broad, flat, spade-shaped incisors, dull, short canines or none, and molars with flat cusps. Incisors and canines are used to pick plant pieces into the mouth while molars with wide ridged surfaces are used for grinding plant materials. Because of the low palatability of plant materials, herbivores have extensive chewing capacity. For this purpose, their jaw point is located just above the plane of teeth. Herbivores have carbohydrate digestive enzymes in saliva. However, this is unlikely to occur in carnivores and omnivores (except in human). The stomach has  either single or with multiple chambers, which improves the digestion of plant material. The length of the small intestine of herbivores is 10 to 12 times their body length; this helps to increase the absorption surface of nutrients. Moreover, their colon is long and may be sacculated, just like humans.

Difference Between Herbivores Carnivores and Omnivores - 1

What are Carnivores | Diet, Physiological Features

Carnivores are the animals that rely solely on meats of other animals. The most characteristic feature of carnivores is the presence of large canines with extremely sharp edges that are designed for stabbing and tearing the prey. In addition, their molars have jagged edges and incisors have short pointed ridges that help to grasp and shred flesh. Similar to omnivores, carnivores have no digestive enzymes in their saliva. Moreover, the length of small intestine is 3-6 times their body length. Their liver has the ability to detoxify Vitamin A unlike herbivores. The nails are modified to sharp claws. 

Main Difference - Herbivores Carnivores vs Omnivores

What are Omnivores | Diet, Physiological Features

Omnivores are the animals that feed on both meat and vegetation. They have a great variation of dietary pattern, unlike the other two categories. Omnivores have fairly mixed dentition of carnivores and omnivores. They have short pointed incisors, long sharp curved canines and molars with sharp and / or flat blades. The length of their small intestine is 4-6 times body length. Other features like stomach capacity and type, salivary composition, colon, liver, and nails are very much similar to carnivores.

Difference Between Herbivores Carnivores and Omnivores

Difference Between Herbivores Carnivores and Omnivores


Herbivores only eat plant materials.

Carnivores only eat meat.

Omnivores eat both meat and plant materials.

Facial Muscles

Herbivores have complex facial muscles.

Carnivores have reduced facial muscles.

Omnivores have reduced facial muscles.

Jaw Point

Herbivores‘ jaw is above the plane of molars.

Carnivores‘ jaw is on the sample plane as molars.

Omnivores‘ jaw is on the sample plane as molars.

Jaw Muscles

Herbivores have Masseter and Pterygoids.

Carnivores have Temporalis.            

Omnivores have Temporalis.

Mouth to Head Ratio        

Herbivores‘ mouth to head ratio is small.

Carnivores‘ mouth to head ratio is large.

Omnivores‘ mouth to head ratio is large.


Herbivores have broad, flat, spade-shaped incisors.

Carnivores have short, pointed incisors. 

Omnivores  have short, pointed incisors. 


Herbivores have dull, short or long (for defense) canines. 

Carnivores have extremely sharp, long and curved canines.

Omnivores have sharp, long and curved canines.


Herbivores have flat molars with cusps.

Carnivores have long, sharp and curved molars.

Omnivores have long, sharp and curved molars.

Chewing Capacity

Herbivores have a very high chewing capacity.

Carnivores do not chew.

Omnivores do not often chew, but may use simple crushing.

Detoxification of Vitamin A in Liver

Herbivores can detoxify vitamin A.

Carnivores can not detoxify vitamin A.

Omnivores can not detoxify vitamin A.

Stomach Type

Herbivores have either simple or with multiple chambers.

Carnivores have a simple stomach with one chamber.

Omnivores have a  simple stomach with one chamber.

Length  of the Small Intestine

Herbivores have extremely longer intestines (10-12 times body length)

Carnivores‘ intestines are 3-6 times of body length.

Omnivores‘ intestines are 4-6 times of body length.


Herbivores‘ colon is long and complex.

Carnivores‘ colon is simple, short and smooth.

Omnivores‘ colon is simple, short and smooth.


Herbivores‘ urine is moderately concentrated.

Carnivores is extremely concentrated.

Omnivores‘ is extremely concentrated.


Herbivores have flat or modified into hooves.

Carnivores have modified into sharp claws.

Omnivores have modified into sharp claws.


Herbivores include Giraffe, goat, cow, deer, etc.

Carnivores include lion, jaguar, tiger, hyena, leopard, etc.

Omnivores include human, bear, dog, etc.Difference Between Herbivores, Carnivores and Omnivores - infographic

About the Author: Yashoda

Yashoda has been a freelance writer in the field of biology for about four years. He is an expert in conducting research related to polymer chemistry and nano-technology. He holds a B.Sc. (Hons) degree in Applied Science and a Master of Science degree in Industrial Chemistry.

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