6 vegetarian animals we never suspected would have a taste for blood

Not so cute and cuddly after all

Polly Want A Hamburger?
Polly want a hamburger?VirtualWolf/Flickr CC By SA 2.0

Lorikeets are cute, colorful parrots that typically eat pollen and nectar. But some populations have also developed a taste for flesh. The species' carnal appetite was discovered when a birdwatcher in Australia set out minced meat for omnivorous and carnivorous birds. Although he also set out foodstuffs for avian vegetarians, he noticed that the lorikeets were eating the meat. They even tried to scare off other birds who wanted a taste.

It turns out there are loads of "herbivorous" animals who eat meat when they get the chance--lorikeets are just the most recently reported example. Scientists aren't sure why these alleged vegetarians sometimes eat meat. It could be pathological, or it could be related to the animal's nutritional deficiencies in salt, iron, or protein. Over at Slate, writer Jackson Landers suggests it could be a matter of environmental upheaval. In other words, when humans and climate change alter habitats and food supplies, fortune favors animals that aren't picky eaters.

Check out the gallery below to find which other species might haunt your nightmares tonight.

Deer

Deer

Don't let Bambi fool you. Deer will devour pretty much anything that doesn't put up a fight. They've been known to gobble up fish, dead rabbits (oh no, Thumper!), and even the guts of other deer. In one ornithology study in Canada, scientists captured birds and bats in safe nets, with the intent to release them later. Unfortunately, a herd of deer walked up to the nets and began eating the birds alive. Brutal.Peter Trimming/Flickr CC By 2.0
Cows

Cows

They may seem docile, but cows can be bloodthirsty too. Once, a cow was caught on camera eating baby chickens. Another, named Lal, is believed to be responsible for the disappearance of 48 chickens from a village in India. Local veterinarians blamed his lust for flesh on malnutrition or possibly a disease.John Haslam/Flickr CC By 2.0
Hippos

Hippos

Ok, this one is maybe not terribly surprising, considering how ferocious hippos can be. Although they're dangerous to humans and animals, hippopotami typically dine on short grass. However, researchers have documented the beasts killing and eating an impala. Hippos have also been known to eat carrion, as well as other hippos.Tambako The Jaguar/Flickr CC By ND 2.0
antelope

Duikers

This small antelope may not seem like much of a hunter, but that round belly had to come from somewhere. In addition to fruit, leaves, and bark, duikers munch on carrion, small mammals, frogs, and lizards.hyper7pro/Flickr CC By 2.0
Sheep

Sheep

On the Scottish Island of Rum, seabird chicks sometimes turn up with their legs chewed off. Although red deer are partly to blame, it turns out the local sheep also play a role in the carnage. Scientists think that the island's naturally low levels of calcium may be driving the animals' eclectic food choices. That or we're living in the real life version of Black Sheep, and genetic engineering has created a herd of bloodthirsty killers.David Goehring/Flickr CC By 2.0