All About Animal Droppings
Everything you ever wanted to know — but were afraid to ask — about all kinds of animal droppings.
Animal droppings deserve a pedastal.
You’ve stepped in it. You’ve shoveled it. You’ve avoided it, spread it, and unwittingly carried it places where you wish you hadn’t. But if you’re smart about it and use it right, you’ll actually be thankful when someone bestows upon you a heaping pile of manure.
So valuable in a historic context is dung, that there’s a branch of science devoted to it. Coprologists (a paleontologist who studies feces) can learn a lot from studying dinosaur dirt (known as coprolites), including what the dino dined upon, his size, and where he lived.
For many animals, particularly predatory ones, scat is a calling card that marks territory and leaves information. Other animals most likely use what they leave behind as a sort of smelly GPS unit.
Dung beetles use manure as a nursery for their eggs, and African ovenbirds have even been known to make nests from it. Plants often rely on animals and birds to begin the germination process through stomach acids, or to cast seeds far and wide in a substance that comes with built-in fertilizer. And civet cats are highly prized for their seed-filled droppings, since that cat’s scat makes some very pricey coffee.
Home sweet home?
Some enterprising souls use dung in place of diamonds for jewelry.
Yes, indeed, it’s true that humans have had interesting uses for waste over the course of history.
There was a time in the not-so-distant past that many homes in North America were made of cow dung and straw or grasses; in some places in the world, that’s still the case. Dried cow flops, buffalo biscuits and camel crap still make excellent fuel when oil or gas isn’t available.
Hippocrates even tried a pigeon-dung concoction to cure baldness (think fertilizer), while ancient Egyptian women used gator goo as birth control and gazelle excrement as hair tonic (which makes you wonder who thought of these things and their true intentions). During the Vietnam War, faux tiger dung was used to camouflage U.S. radio transmitters. Dog droppings were once important in the leather-tanning process, and researchers are currently looking for ways to use excreta as medicine.
And then we get to the gardener-farmer
We know for sure that Chinese farmers were using manure as fertilizer more than 3,000 years ago, but it doesn’t take much imagination to think that earlier farmers recognized the use of crap for crops as well. By 800 B.C., the Greeks really had droppings down pat and knew exactly how much to use in various soils to make it usable for crops.
That’s because manure, in case you’re wondering, is filled with goodness. There’s phosphorous in it, which helps soil. It also contains nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium and a few other assorted nutrients. The basic make-up of manure can hold soil together. It also gives worms something to eat, which results in worm castings, a form of manure and one of the best additions to garden soil.