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Herbivore Dinosaurs – What’s So Cool About Them? (Types, Sizes, Facts)

Herbivore dinosaurs, the plant-eaters of the past, are record holders in many areas. They were the giant Sauropods, the armored dinosaurs, and some of them were Ominivores – dinosaurs that ate both vegetation and meat. It’s exciting that we have found fossils of these herbivore dinosaurs on every continent, even Antarctica. The meat-eating predators typically get the most attention; after all, they had features that were scary and impressive. But as I research more about dinosaurs and find that they so evolved many interesting characteristics, it makes me wonder what’s so cool about them?

So, what’s so cool about herbivore dinosaurs? The plant-eating dinosaurs were so cool because they’re the biggest dinosaurs on earth, they developed armor to defend themselves to a level never seen before, and there were lots of them – about 65% of all dinosaurs. Herbivore dinosaurs include the giant Sauropods, the two-legged dinosaurs, and the armored four-legged dinosaurs. These dinosaurs lived during the whole Mesozoic Era, up until the mass extinction in the late Cretaceous period.

During the Mesozoic Era, you were more likely to run into herbivore dinosaurs than meat-eating dinosaurs. Plant-eating dinosaur fossils are found on all continents, and what’s cool is that specific groups of these dinosaurs had features and characteristics that exist today, for instance, armor weapons like horns. That’s not the only cool thing about plant-eating dinosaurs, read on to learn about the coolest giants the world has ever seen.  


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What is an Herbivore Dinosaur? Were There Two-Legged Herbivore Dinosaurs? 

Let’s dive deeper into what herbivore dinosaurs were, the characteristics they had, and cover some of the most well-known plant-eating dinosaurs. As dinosaurs were present Mesozoic Era, we find herbivore dinosaurs lived and evolved in all three periods of the Mesozoic – the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. 

What is Herbivore Dinosaur? – Some Anatomy Characteristics

One of the key characteristics of herbivore dinosaurs is their teeth. They were blunt teeth or cone-shaped that indicate they were not killing creatures. They used their teeth to grab and grind vegetation – all kinds of vegetation that were growing during the dinosaur time periods. At that time, there were redwoods, pines conifers, ancient species of palm trees, and cypress trees. Interestingly, some species fed only on a particular kind of plant or tree. 

Herbivores had strong digestive systems to digest different fibers and proteins from plant matter. Some dinosaurs also ate stones with the primary purpose to help digest their food together with enzymatic activity, similar to modern birds. Other dinosaurs had developed claws and better-grinding teeth, therefore not needing stones to assist in the digestion. 

YouTube Video of Vegetation during Triassic to Late Cretaceous Periods

YouTube Video by “Paleolithic Gamer” depicting types of plants and vegetation during different time periods when herbivore dinosaurs lived

How Many Legs Did a Herbivore Dinosaurs Have?

In general, there are two-legged dinosaurs (bipedal) and four-legged dinosaurs. These dinosaurs were called Theropods (from the Greek, meaning “wild beast foot”) and existed starting in the late Triassic period. 

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Camptosaurus was a bipedal dinosaur and was also a herbivore – AdventureDinosaurs

The two-legged dinosaurs walked in a somewhat upright stance on two legs, although some dinosaurs like Iguanodon, were thought to walk more horizontally and use their arms to counterbalance their weight.

The four-legged dinosaurs, such as the Sauropods, were the largest. Along with a huge body, they also had a long neck and tail. 

There is also a Theropod that resembled birds, a group of dinosaurs called ornithopods because they had a hip that looks like a bird’s hip. They were super-fast dinosaurs that can achieve the speed of 40 km/h when they feel any danger around them. 

Types of Plant-Eating Dinosaurs

In Table 1, the different types of herbivore dinosaurs are listed. Column one indicates the type, column 2 gives the name of dinosaurs that belong to that type together with a short description, and finally, in column 3, we indicate whether these dinosaur types were two-legged or four-legged.

Table 1 - Types of Herbivore Dinosaurs

Type of Herbivore DinosaurDinosaur & Description4-Legged or 2-Legged Dinosaur?
SauropodsApatosaurus, Argentinosaurus, Brachiosaurus4-Legged
TherapodsIguanodon, Hadrosaurus, Muttaburrasaurus2-Legged
Armored Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Protoceratops4-Legged
Bird-Like TherapodsOrinthomimus 2-Legged
Omnivores (plant & meat eaters)Therizinosaurus 2-Legged
Type of Herbivore DinosaurDinosaur & Description4-Legged or 2-Legged Dinosaur?

What Was the Biggest Plant Eating Dinosaur? The Giant Sauropods 

The giant Sauropods were the largest plant-eating dinosaurs and also the largest dinosaurs ever to exist. Fossil remains of these dinosaurs immediately give the impression of how big these dinosaurs were. Sauropods lived in current-day North America, South America, China, Europe, the Middle-East, and Africa – basically all over the world. The largest Sauropod was Argentinosaurus huinculensis, which was approximately 50-96.4 metric tonnes (55.1-106.3 short tons) and reached a length between 30-39.7 meters (98-130 feet). Source: Wikipedia 

Long-Neck Sauropods

The giant Sauropods were not only big, but they also had extremely long necks. The first time I saw a Sauropod fossil was in London at the Natural History Museum. I later learned it was a plaster replica, but that didn’t take away from the experience of seeing it. The dinosaur was so huge, and the neck seemed to be half of the dinosaur. It was amazing and cool. 

Sauropods like the Apatosaurus were long-neck, plant-eating dinosaurs – AdventureDinosaurs

The advantage of a dinosaur having a long neck is that it can reach vegetation at the tops of trees, or to gather plants from side to side. Sauropods needed to eat lots of calories to sustain its big size, so the more plants it could reach, the better. The other advantage of a long neck is that it could also be used to nudge and knock predators.

The teeth of a Sauropod like Apatosaurus or Brachiosaurus was flat or cone-shaped, as mentioned earlier, designed to grind vegetation. A Sauropod could replace its teeth reasonably quickly too.

Paleontologists suggest, based on patterns of footprints, tail prints as well as fossil excavations that some species of Sauropods moved in herds, sometimes separating into different age groups. As they were all plant-eaters, it made sense to stick together to fend off predators. Additionally, they would travel far distances to get to greener vegetation. 

Interestingly, some Sauropod dinosaurs like the Ampelosaurus is suggested to have had thick skin and spikes on its back, due to some of the indications the fossil remains had which have been found in Europe.

Ampelosaurus, a Sauropod, is thought to have had thickened skin armor and spikes along its back – AdventureDinosaurs

If you’re interested to learn more about long neck Sauropods, I wrote a whole article just about these incredible dinosaurs – check it out! – What Are Long Neck Dinosaurs?

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List of Sauropods  

In Table 2 below, the Sauropod dinosaurs are listed in column one, and a short description of the dinosaur is given in column 2. In the third column, it states where fossils of this dinosaur were found in the world. 

Table 2 - List of Herbivore Sauropods

Sauropod DinosaurDescription of DinosaurWhere Fossils of This Dinosaur Found
ArgentinasaurusSouth America
ApatosaurusNorth America
BrontosaurusNorth America
BrachiosaurusNorth America
PatagotitanSouth America
Sauropod DinosaurDescription of DinosaurWhere Fossils of This Dinosaur Found

Were There Dangerous Herbivore Dinosaurs? The Armored Herbivore Dinosaurs 

Many people think of plant-eating dinosaurs as being calm, a bit slow, and even docile – quite the opposite of a dangerous dinosaur. However, the fact is that some herbivore dinosaurs were dangerous, especially if attacked. They had evolved different adaptations to survive against aggressive threats of carnivorous dinosaurs. For instance, strong armor plates and skin, long horns, spikes, and clubs on the body and tail, were used to whip against predators. Let’s find out more about these armored, dangerous dinosaurs. 

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General Description of Armored Dinosaurs 

The armored herbivore dinosaurs were mostly four-legged, although some horns and armor or spikes were found on a few two-legged dinosaurs like Pachycephalosaurus. The teeth of these plant-eaters were similar to other dinosaurs in that they were shaped flat or coned so that they could grind vegetation. 

One differentiator from carnivore dinosaurs is that instead of claws, four-legged armored dinosaurs had blunt hooves or toenails. 

There isn’t full agreement among paleontologists on whether armored dinosaurs lived together in herds. Among the fossil finds of armored dinosaurs, they were found one by one, and not grouped together. If we take a look at modern-day mammals, for instance, rhinos, we see that most species live individually. However, the white rhino lives in herds with other female rhinos. 

The time period that armored dinosaurs lived was from the late-Jurassic (Stegosaurs) to the late-Cretaceous (Ankylosaurs). Many of the fossil found in recent years have been armored dinosaurs from the late-Cretaceous. 

The Styracosaurus was a four-legged herbivore dinosaur that had spikes on its frill and horns – AdventureDinosaurs

Types of Armor – Horns, Spikes, Plates, Clubs

Herbivore dinosaurs developed several different types of armor and weapons. Here are the main types:

Horns on the Head -These dinosaurs grew horns protruding out of the frill (a kind of shield that covers their neck). The Triceratops had three horns. Another dinosaur, the Styracosaurus, had horns on the frill shield.

Plates on the Body –These dinosaurs had plates standing vertically along the length of the back of the dinosaur. Interestingly, scientists first thought these plates were laid on top of the dinosaur’s body, but later realized they stood vertically.

Spikes on the Body –The Nodosaurus had large spikes along both sides of its body and also its head. The Iguanodon had a spiked thumb. This spiked thumb was used for protection and also for cutting through vegetation.

Spikes on the Tail – The most well-known dinosaur that had spikes on their tail was the Stegosaurus, which used the spikes on the tail to deliver a blow to possible predators like Allosaurus.

Clubs on the Tail – The Ankylosaurus had a bone-formed club at the end of its tail, and this tail was used similar to the Stegosaurus, swinging the tail to deliver a blow against a predator.

One interesting note is the case that scientists suspect is a species of dinosaur that turned from being carnivores into vegetarians. That species was the Therizinosaurs. They were aggressive and had some long arms with long claws, and on top of that, the claws had deadly spikes. These dinosaurs, despite the armor, are considered to be plant-eating dinosaurs. If you are interested in dinosaur weapons and armor, I wrote this article How Did Dinosaurs Protect Themselves? (Armor, Weapons) that explains it in more detail.

Armored and spiked dinosaurs were mostly herbivores but could protect themselves from predators – AdventureDinosaurs

List of Armed Herbivore Dinosaurs and Descriptions 

Here’s a list of armed herbivores. In the table below, the first column indicated the type of armor. In the second column, I state the dinosaur and a short description or interesting fact about the dinosaur. And in the third column, I indicate what the armor or weapon was used for either protection or fighting.

Table 3 - List of Armored Herbivores

Type of Armor or Weapon on DinosaurDescription of DinosaurHow Armor / Weapons Used
Horns on HeadTriceratopsFighting
Horns on FrillStyracosaurusProtection
Horns on NoseProtoceratopsFighting
Plates Along BackStegosaurus – Had plates along the back standing vertically. Colorado, USA is “the Stegosaurus State” , in tribute to the first Stegosaurus fossil foundProtection
Thick Armor Skin/ScalesAnkylosaurs and NodosaursProtection
Spikes BodyReference dinosaur – Iguanodon (thumb) and Nodosaurus Protection
Spikes TailStegosaurus Fighting
Club TailAnkylosaurusFighting
Type of Armor or Weapon on DinosaurDescription of DinosaurHow Armor / Weapons Used

Parting Shot

When one first starts learning about dinosaurs, it’s common that the carnivore dinosaurs like the T-Rex or Velociraptors are often the first noticed and learned about. Probably it’s because of the popularity of the dinosaur or the one most seen in the movies. However, as we have discussed in this article, the herbivore dinosaurs had some cool features and traits that set them apart from predators, and they can be just as amazing and dangerous as meat-eating dinosaurs. I’ll always be amazed at how cool the giant, long-necked herbivore dinosaurs are!

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