Browsing is a type of herbivory in which an herbivore (or, more narrowly defined, a folivore) feeds on leaves, soft shoots, or fruits of high growing, generally woody, plants such as shrubs. This is contrasted with grazing, usually associated with animals feeding on grass or other low vegetation. An example of this dichotomy are goats (which are browsers) and sheep (which are grazers); these two closely related ruminants utilize dissimilar food sources.
The plant material eaten is known as browse and is naturally taken straight from the plant, though owners of livestock such as goats and deer may cut twigs or branches for feeding to the stock. In temperate regions, owners take browse before leaf fall, then dry and store it as a winter feed supplement. In time of drought, herdsmen may cut branches from beyond the reach of their stock, as forage at ground level. In the tropical regions, where population pressure leads owners to resort to this more often, there is a danger of permanent depletion of the supply. Animals in captivity may be fed browse as a replacement for their wild food sources; in the case of bears, the browse may consist of bunches of banana leaves, bamboo shoots, slender pine, spruce, fir and willow branches, straw and native grasses.
- ^ Chapman, J.L. and Reiss, M.J., Ecology: Principles and Applications. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999. p. 304. (via Google books, Feb 25, 2008)
- ^ Oxford English Dictionary: Browse.
- ^ St. John's College, Oxford: Forest Glossary: Browse, Browsewood.
- ^ Buy a bunch of browse for the bears, Animals Asia