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What do Panda Bears Eat

Written by JessicaDavis

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Posted on February 02 2024

Pandas are cute, chubby animals who can always be seen eating bamboo. To stay healthy, they have to eat a lot; up to 15 percent of their body weight in 12 hours, so they eat fast. However, seeing a panda eating bamboo, you may wonder if it is all they eat. Is bamboo sufficient to keep them full all day long, or do they consume it as a supplementary diet? 

This article will help you find the answers to what do panda bears eat. We will also see why they are always seen eating bamboo shoots and leaves. So, let's delve into understanding the logic behind a panda bear eating bamboo.

What do Panda Bears Eat

Panda eating bamboo is pretty common as a panda's diet is 99% vegetarian, mostly bamboo roots, shoots, stems, and leaves. However, their digestive system is that of a carnivore. This way, the remaining 1% of their diet can include but is not limited to meat, eggs, small animals, and carrion. 

Pandas are also known to forage in farmland for pumpkin, kidney beans, wheat, and domestic pig food. Giant pandas are known to feed on over 20 different varieties selectively. They eat a diet that includes:

  • Bamboo shoots, leaves, and culm 
  • Meat (pikas, rodents, insects)
  • Carrion
  • Crops (wheat, pumpkins, kidney beans, livestock feed)

In addition to bamboo and the occasional protein, panda bears also love fruit, especially apples. Panda bears have also been known to like a "panda cake," which is just steamed cornbread. In the summer, pandas enjoy frozen ice with bits of apple inside them to cool them down. Furthermore, Pandas enjoy vegetables like carrots, ginseng, and even some fungi.


Why do Pandas Eat Bamboo

A panda bear's daily diet consists almost entirely of roots, leaves, stems, and shoots of numerous bamboo species. Technically, bamboo is crucial in a panda's diet, accounting for 99% of their food. 

Now, if you wonder why bamboo plays a vital role in panda's diet, it is so because it is:


  • Rich in fiber, proteins, carbs, and essential vitamins 
  • Abundant in mountain forest habitats 
  • Pandas have evolved to digest cellulose easily 

Bamboo is a rich source of nutritional elements like fiber for pandas and has small amounts of proteins, carbs, and other essential vitamins and minerals. Besides these dietary benefits, bamboo also provides panda bears with a high water content. As a result, it helps them stay hydrated in their natural environment. Moreover, bamboo has a low-fat content, which benefits pandas' health as they usually overeat when presented with food that is high in calories. 

Even conservationists have worked hard to protect panda habitats and ensure enough food is available for these adorable, cuddly creatures. Humans have planted millions of acres of new bamboo forests to create a safe environment for pandas. They have even worked with local farmers to grow more crops specifically for pandas. This helps pandas feed without fear of predators or habitat destruction due to human activity.  

Despite its diet being almost wholly bamboo, the panda still has the digestive system of a carnivore. So bamboo can be a poor food source, providing very little protein. 

Why are Pandas called Iron Eaters?

The giant panda was once known as the "Iron Eater Beast," due to certain behaviors and misconceptions throughout history. Giant pandas eat bamboo as their staple food, but when food resources decrease in winter, they migrate downhill for food. Sometimes, they enter villagers' homes to find and eat copper and iron pots containing leftover food, causing damage to these items.

  1. Powerful Bite: Giant pandas have very sharp teeth, and their bite is strong enough to rival some large carnivores. Historically, giant pandas have been observed licking the salt left in iron pots, but misunderstandings have arisen because their teeth are so sharp that they tend to break iron products.
  1. Omnivorous Habits: Although giant pandas mainly feed on bamboo, they occasionally eat grass, wild fruits, insects, bamboo rats, sheep, and other foods. In case of salt shortage, they may lick and eat iron or other objects used by humans as a source of supplemental salt.
  1. Ancient Records: The behavior of giant pandas licking copper, iron, and bamboo bones has been recorded in ancient books such as "Erya - Interpretation of Beasts" and "New Qi Harmonious Primer," which may be one of the origins of the name "iron eater."
  1. Folklore: The pandas were also known as iron eaters because they climbed up near the city gates at night to eat the copper and iron cladding on the nails of the gates. 

In a nutshell, the term "iron eater" is mainly derived from some actual behaviors of giant pandas and their observation records by ancient people, as well as the misunderstanding of these behaviors.

If a panda bear eating bamboo fascinates you, Pandadorf.com is here to fulfill your dream of owning one. You can't visit a zoo daily or quickly climb up the Sichuan mountain ranges for a glimpse. Still, this site ensures you have a premium and luxurious collection of panda clothes and accessories to carry all day long.  

You must visit the Pandadorf site to find panda jewelry, toys, smartphone cases, bags, hooded blankets, slippers, pet costumes, and much more for kids and adults. After all, pandas are cute and chubby animals, making themselves the favorite of everyone due to their cuddly nature.

Now you know what do panda bears eat. So, if you ever find a panda bear eating bamboo, you won't be amazed. While pandas and bamboo may seem unlikely, they are pretty intertwined! Seeing their love for bamboo, many conservationists planted new bamboo forests to protect panda habitats and help them to feed on safely. While it's unclear exactly when or why the relationship between pandas and bamboo began, it's clear that this powerful connection will continue long into the future!

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