Animal latrine

Animal latrines (latrine areas,[1] animal toilets, defecation sites) are places where wildlife animals habitually defecate and urinate. Many kinds of animals are highly specific in this respect and have stereotyped routines, including approach and departure.[2] Many of them have communal, i.e., shared, latrines.

Animals with dedicated defecation sitesEdit

Animals with communal latrines include raccoons, Eurasian badgers,[3] elephants,[4] deer,[5] antelopes,[6] horses,[1] and dicynodonts (a 240-million-year-old site is the "world's oldest public toilet").[4]

A regularly used toilet area or dunghill, created by many mammals, such as hyraxes or moles, is also called a midden.[7][8]

Some lizards, such as yakka skinks (Egernia rugosa)[9] and thorny devils[10] use dedicated defecation sites.

European rabbits may deposit their pellets both randomly over the range and at communal latrine sites.[11]

Function and impactEdit


Middens and other types of defecation sites may serve as territorial markers.[6][7] Elaborate "dungpile rituals" are reported for adult stallions,[1] and deer bucks,[5] which are thought to serve for confrontation avoidance. In contrast, female and young animals exhibit no such behavior.[1]


Dedicated defecation sites are thought to be the result of sanitation-driven behavior. For example, spider mite Stigmaeopsis miscanthi constructs woven nests, and nest members defecate at only one site inside the nest.[12] Dedicated latrine areas observed by free-roaming horses mean that grazing area is kept parasite-free. Even stabled horses seem to have vestiges of such behavior.[1]

Herbivoral livestock is at risk of parasite/pathogen exposure from feces during grazing, therefore there is an interest in research of livestock behavior in presence of feces both of their own species, and others, including wildlife, including the dependence on defecation patterns.[13]

Ecological impactEdit

Latrines of herbivores, such as antelopes, play an important role in ecology by providing enrichment of certain areas in nutrients. It is described that duiker and steenbok antelopes tended to defecate in exposed sites, generally on very sandy soil, while klipspringer preferred rocky outcrops, thus enriching the nutrient-deficient areas, as well as depositing plant seed there.[6]

Raccoon latrinesEdit

A common nuisance of raccoons is raccoon latrines (raccoon toilets), which may contain eggs of the roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis. Nuisance raccoon latrines may be found in attics, on flat roofs, on logs, in yards and sandboxes, etc.[14][15][16]

Use in researchEdit

In addition to immediate research of animal behavior and biology, animal toilets and coprolites are an instrument of research for not directly related purposes in biology, ecology, paleontology climate research, and other areas. They provide various information: plant habitats, historical information about prehistoric life and climate, etc.[4][17]

Animal latrine associatesEdit

Some fungi are animal latrine associates. For example, Hebeloma radicosum is an ammonia fungus which associates with latrines of moles, wood mice,[8] and shrews.[18]

There is a curious association of Cucumis humifructus ("aardvark cucumber" or "aardvark pumpkin") with latrines of aardvarks. C. humifructus produces its fruit underground, the aardvark burrows for them, and then deposits its seeds in dunghills near its habitat. The distribution of C. humifructus tends to match that of aardvark latrines.[19]

Some insects (e.g., termites and dung beetles)[6] feed on animal excrement and hence are natural associates of dung sites.


  1. ^ a b c d e McGreevy, Paul, ed. (2012). Equine Behavior: A Guide for Veterinarians and Equine Scientists (2nd ed.). Elsevier. p. 211. ISBN 978-0702043376.
  2. ^ "Mammalogy", ISBN 0763762997, p. 562
  3. ^ "On the Fruit Consumption of Eurasian Badger (Meles meles) (Mammalia: Mustelidae) during the Autumn Season in Sredna Gora Mountains (Bulgaria)". Retrieved 2014-01-03.
  4. ^ a b c "Giant prehistoric toilet unearthed", James Morgan, science reporter, BBC News, 28 November 2013
  5. ^ a b George B. Schaller, "The Deer and the Tiger", p. 164
  6. ^ a b c d "THE ROLE OF SMALL ANTELOPE IN ECOSYSTEM FUNCTIONING IN THE MATOBO HILLS, ZIMBABWE" Archived December 30, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b Chase, B.M.; Meadows, M.E.; Scott, L.; Thomas, D.S.G.; Marais, E.; Sealy, J.; Reimer, P.J. (2009). "A record of rapid Holocene climate change preserved in hyrax middens from southwestern Africa". Geology. 37 (8): 703–706. Bibcode:2009Geo....37..703C. doi:10.1130/G30053A.1.
  8. ^ a b Sagara N, Senn-Irlet B, Marstad P (2006). "Establishment of the case of Hebeloma radicosum growth on the latrine of the wood mouse". Mycoscience. 47 (5): 263–8. doi:10.1007/s10267-006-0303-y. S2CID 85310185.
  9. ^ Lee Curtis (2012). Queensland's Threatened Animals. Csiro Publishing. p. 224. ISBN 9780643104570. Retrieved 2014-01-03.
  10. ^ Dewey, Tanya. "ADW: Moloch horridus: INFORMATION". Retrieved 2014-01-03.
  11. ^ Sneddon I.A. Latrine use by the European rabbit (Oryctolagus-Cuniculus). J Mammal 1991;72:769–775 doi:10.2307/1381841
  12. ^ Yukie Sato, Yutaka Saito, "Nest Sanitation in Social Spider Mites: Interspecific Differences in Defecation Behavior", doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.2005.01184.x
  13. ^ "Livestock grazing behavior and inter- versus intraspecific disease risk via the fecal–oral route"
  14. ^ "Inspecting for Raccoon Damage". Archived from the original on 2013-12-30. Retrieved 2013-12-30.
  15. ^ "Nuisance Animals Around The Home". Archived from the original on 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2013-12-30.
  16. ^ "Raccoon Latrines: Identification and Clean-up", a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage
  17. ^ "50,000 Year Old Animal Toilet Offers Clues To Climate Change History", International Business Times, February 19, 2013
  18. ^ Sagara N, Ooyama J, Koyama M (2008). "New causal animal for the growth of Hebeloma radicosum (Agaricales): shrew, Sorex sp (Mammalia, Insectivora)". Mycoscience. 49 (3): 207–10. doi:10.1007/s10267-008-0407-7. S2CID 83999856.
  19. ^ Jeremy Hollmann (1997). "Information Needed About the Aardvark Cucumber (Cucumis humofructus)". BGCNews. 2 (8). Archived from the original on 2015-02-11. Retrieved 2014-06-01.