All About Animal Droppings

Everything you ever wanted to know — but were afraid to ask — about all kinds of animal droppings.


| September/October 2012



Animal Droppings Are Good Luck

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).

Brian Orr

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.

Jackson
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