Extreme Recycling

The multiple uses of dung.

Jack Woodall
Jan 31, 2007

Who first thought of dung as food? Was it the dung beetle, or the pig? I suppose if insects evolved before mammals, the palm goes to the beetle. As everyone knows, dung beetles work in pairs to make a ball from the nearest dung pile, where they roll it into their burrow, lay their eggs in it, and leave it as a tasty food supply for their progeny. Pigs will eat the excrement of any species, but rabbits practice a special type of coprophagia; they eat their own soft fresh cecal pellets for redigestion, since they lack the four-chambered stomach of bovines, which recycle its contents to the mouth more discreetly.

Of course, ever since the first farmers noticed that the grass grew greener around a pile of animal droppings, dung has been used for fertilizing crops. In England in times of yore, before chemicals took over, farmers were likely...