Stomach of a Cow

You may have heard that cows have 4 stomachs, but that is not actually accurate.  Cows, like all other vertebrates, have the same basic blueprint for the digestive system:

mouth –> esophagus –>  stomach  –> small intestine –> large intestine  –> anus

There is one stomach, but that stomach is divided into compartments to facilitate the digestion of plant material.   Ruminants are hoofed mammals like sheep, cows, and giraffes, that  eat plant material which is digested in a compartment of the stomach called the rumen.   Cows will also regurgitate the contents of this chamber and re-chew the contents (cud).

This image from the Household Physician, 1905 shows that lateral view of a cow’s digestive system.  (Image Credit:  William Cresswell,  via Flickr) with the rumen (pouch) removed to show the other structures.  It is the first section or chamber of the stomach.

household-physician-1905-cow-flickr

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