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A female Oriental Latrine Fly (Chrysomya megacephala) feeds on animal feces.

Coprophagia [1] or coprophagy 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 1
    • Invertebrates 1.1
    • Vertebrates 1.2
  • In plants 2
  • In humans 3
    • In medicine 3.1
    • In sex 3.2
    • In literature 3.3
    • In film 3.4
    • In TV series 3.5
    • In music 3.6
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

In animals


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.


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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

Hamsters, guinea pigs and chinchillas eat their own droppings, which are thought to be a source of vitamins B and K, produced by bacteria in the gut. Apes have been observed eating horse feces for the salt content. Monkeys have been observed eating elephant feces. Coprophagia has also been observed in the naked mole-rat.

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.

Some domesticated and wild mammals are known to consume feces. In the wild they either bury or eat waste to protect their trail from predators.

In plants

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

In humans

In medicine

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 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 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.[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

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

  • The 120 Days of Sodom, a novel by the Marquis de Sade written in 1785, is replete with detailed descriptions of erotic sadomasochistic coprophagia.[14]
  • Samuel R. Delany's novel Hogg, written in 1969, is also replete with detailed descriptions of erotic coprophagia.
  • Thomas Pynchon's award winning 1973 novel Gravity's Rainbow contains a very detailed scene of coprophagia.[15]
  • 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).[16] 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.[17]
  • Consider Phlebas, a novel by Iain M Banks, contains depictions of a tribe known as the Eaters, who repeatedly engage in coprophagia.
  • Ubu Roi, a comic-absurdist play by Alfred Jarry, contains numerous references to coprophagy/scatology.[18]
  • Cows, a 1998 horror-satire by Matthew Stokoe, contains a very detailed, extreme sequence of a boy forcing his mother to eat his feces (and eating some himself).
  • Naked Lunch, a novel by William S. Buroughs, mentions an instance of auto-coprophagia in the "Benway" section.

In film

  • The third amongst the four acts of Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1975 film Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, a loose adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's aforementioned The 120 Days of Sodom, is concerned with coprophagia.
  • Dušan Makavejev's 1974 film Sweet Movie contains a long scene featuring coprophagia.
  • 2 Girls 1 Cup; a 2007 scat-fetish pornographic film.
  • August Underground; a woman held captive by a pair of serial killers is degraded by being forced to eat her own excrement.
  • The Green Elephant; during a psychotic break, one prisoner consumes his own feces.
  • The Human Centipede (First Sequence); a mad scientist captures three tourists and surgically connects them mouth to anus, so that two of them are "fed" by the bowel movements of the "segment" whose buttocks their mouth has been attached to.
  • The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence); in the sequel to the above, a man copycats the scientist's experiment, but with nearly a dozen victims.
  • Unspeakable; when a catatonic woman defecates, a man smears it on her vagina, then performs cunnilingus on her.
  • Pink Flamingos; the film ends with Divine eating a dog's freshly laid stool.
  • 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.
  • I Declare War; there is a dare between two of the boys.

In TV series

  • Tsst; in the seventh episode of the tenth season of South Park, the American animated TV series, a nanny (Jo Frost from the reality TV program Supernanny), ends up in a psychiatric hospital, chanting "It's from Hell!", while eating her own feces after her attempt to help Cartman's mom with his son's behavior problems.
  • 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", the "HUMANCENTiPAD", for which he and two others were kidnapped. The three kidnapped subjects were placed on all fours, each with their mouth sewn to the next one's 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.

In music

  • 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.

See also


  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.  
  3. ^ FDA Urged to Ban Feeding Chicken Litter to Cattle, 2009-11-02, L.A. Times
  4. ^ "BBC Nature — Dung eater videos, news and facts". Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
  5. ^ "Nutritional Aspects of the Diet of Wild Gorillas". Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  6. ^ Lewin, Ralph A. (2001). "More on merde". Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 44 (4): 594–607.  
  7. ^ Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis Using Fecal Bacteriotherapy.
  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.  
  9. ^ Wise, T.N., and R.L. Goldberg (1995). "Escalation of a fetish: coprophagia in a nonpsychotic adult of normal intelligence".  
  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.  
  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.  
  13. ^ Holmes, Ronald M. Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behavior. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. pp. p. 244.  
  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"
  18. ^ Ubu Roi

External links

  • King County, Washington, Animal Control Section. "Eating His Own or Other Animal Feces."
  • Coprophagia in Dogs (ASPCA's Virtual Pet Behaviorist)
  • Why Does My Dog Eat Feces? - Theresa A. Fuess, Ph.D, College of Vet Medicine
  • Coprophagia: Effective Treatment for Dogs Eating Feces
  • 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
  • - Video of Coprophagia by a Gorilla
  • Yesterday's Food Will Become Tomorrow's Food Dr David Ryde MB BS FRCP
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