Carnivore Zoology

Course CodeBEN219
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours

Learn to differentiate different species of carnivores. This course takes you through all of the carnivore families!

You will learn how to describe biological characteristics of the families and genera that fall within the taxonomic order Carnivora.

You will be introduced to the fundamentals about the taxonomy, biology and behaviour of carnivore animals. The course progresses by addressing the biological characteristics of various groups of carnivores.

  • Study from home, at your own pace, tutor supported if you need it. 

  • Course devised by leading animal scientists.

  • Gain an excellent foundation of knowledge for working with wildlife or pets - all taxonomic groups covered. 

  • Professional development for people working in animal welfare, veterinary, conservation, pet care, and related industries.

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Taxonomy and Evolution
    • Distinguishing characteristics of carnivores
    • Principles of taxonomy
    • Modern science changes to taxonomy
    • Carnivore classification - 12 families
    • Case study - polar bear
    • Carnivore evolution
  2. Carnivore Biology
    • Introduction
    • Muscle - skeletal system
    • Types of joints
    • Types of muscles
    • Digestive system
    • Excretory system -skin, kidneys, liver
    • Endocrine system
    • Nervous system
    • Reproductive system
    • Case study - Domestic cat
    • Respiratory system
    • Anatomical adaptations for feeding
    • Locomotion
    • Camouflage
    • Sight
  3. Carnivore Behaviour
    • Kinds of behaviour - reactive, active, cognitive
    • Learned behaviour -classical conditioning, operant conditioning
    • Physiology and behaviour
    • Senses
    • Range and distribution
    • Ecology
    • Longevity
    • Ultraism
    • Reproduction
    • Predation
    • Pathogens and parasites
    • Sustainable management
    • Mating and sexual behaviour
    • Social behaviours
    • Hunting behaviours
    • Territories
  4. Canines
    • Introduction
    • Atelocynus (short-eared dog)
    • Canis (dogs, wolves and foxes)
    • Cerdocyon (crab-eating fox)
    • Chrysocyon
    • Chrysocyon (maned wolf)
    • Cuon (dhole)
    • Dusicyon (Falkland Islands wolf)
    • Lycalopex (culpeo, fox)
    • Lycaon (African wild dog)
    • Nyctereutes (raccoon dog)
    • Otocyon (bat-eared fox)
    • Vulpes (fox)
  5. Felines
    • Sub families
    • Anatomy
    • Digestive system
    • Panthera (Lion, tiger, leopard, Jaguar)
    • Neofelis (Clouded Leopard)
    • Pardofelis (Marbled Cat)
    • Felis (cat)
    • Prionailurus (Fishing Cat)
    • Leopardus (Andean Mountain Cat)
    • Case study - Tiger
  6. Bears
    • Introduction
    • Anatomy/
    • Dentition
    • Lifespan
    • Hibernation
    • Mating and reproduction
    • Living genera and species
    • Ursus
    • Helarctos(Sun Bear)
    • Melursus (Sloth Bear)
    • Tremarctos (Andean Bear, Spectacled Bear)
    • Ailuropoda (Giant Panda)
    • Case study - Giant Panda
  7. Aquatic Carnivores
    • Introduction
    • Odobenidae (walrus)
    • Phocidae (true, earless, or hair seals)
    • Otariidae (eared seals) (fur seals, sea lions)
    • Case study - Walrus conservation
  8. Mustelids
    • Introduction
    • Mustelidae family - Weasels, Badgers, Otters
    • Genus Taxidea (American badger)
    • Mellivora (Honey badger)
    • Arctonyx
    • Meles (Badgers)
    • Eira (Tayra)
    • Gulo (Wolverine)
    • Martes (Martens and Fishers)
    • Melogale (Ferret badgers)
    • Iconyx (Striped polecat)
    • Lontra (New world otters)
    • Enhydra (Sea otters)
    • Lutra (old world otters)
    • Mustela Weasels, European Mink, Ferrets, Stoats and polecats
    • Others
    • Mephitidae family - skunks
  9. Other Carnivores
    • Introduction
    • Procyonidae (raccoons)
    • Ailuridae (lesser panda)
    • Viverridae (civets, genets)
    • Herpestidae (mongooses - often considered part of Viverridae)
    • Hyaenidae (hyenas, aardwolf)

What You Will Do

  • Set Task Activity 1 (Lesson 1)
    • Visit a zoo and observe carnivores. Take photos.
    • If due to accessibility problems, you are unable to visit a zoo, you may complete this task by taking a virtual visit, and recording URL’s of photos and videos which illustrate different species you would expect to see. If you must do this, you need to explain why you cannot visit a real zoo, and you should ensure you observe primates moving on video and not just still images.
    • Enjoy your trip.
  • Set Task Activity 2 (Lesson 2)
    • Compare the skeletal system of 3 common carnivores. You may wish to gather your data in table format.
    • Your table should include similarities and differences in structures as a minimum. Add any other column you can. General notes or comments are not appropriate here – be specific.
  • Set Task Activity 1 (Lesson 4)
    • Read about recent research genome evidence related to the GOLDEN JACKAL (African and Eurasian).
    • Spend around 30 minutes reading the current research. Make simple notes on what you find.
  • Set Task Activity 1 (Lesson 8)
    • Choose a mustelid to research. Consider the diet of this mustelid in its natural habit and physiological adaptations for its chosen diet. Next research feeding regimes which are suitable for this mustelid in captivity.


  • work in the animal transport industry 
  • work in animal health, care and rehabilitation  
  • work in animal conservation and protection - project work overseas or locally 
  • work with people to educate them about the animals 
  • work in welfare 
  • work in pest control and management 
  • work on game reserves, protecting from poachers or predators 
  • work in zoos, safari parks and sanctuaries worldwide 

The Carnivore Zoology course is an insightful reference course  providing a vast knowledge about these fascinating animals. It is aimed at students with a keen interest in carnivores or, equally, for those interested in animals in general and wanting to specialise.

You might like to start with this module and get a taster for studying with us. You might later go onto to study zoological science at diploma level (for example). 

Where can this course lead? With a zoological background, you may find work in the following areas:

  • Government Departments (e.g. Environment and Conservation; Agriculture; Water; Planning; Local Council; Environmental Regulation and Legislation)

  • Universities

  • Environmental Consultancy organisations

  • Research organisations

  • Fisheries and Aquaculture

  • Environmental Resources

  • Agriculture

  • Museums

  • Zoos and Wildlife Sanctuaries

  • National Parks

  • Conservation and Wildlife Management organisations

  • Animal breeding and genetics 

  • Biotechnology

  • Education


Carnivores are animals with four limbs (tetrapods), like reptiles, amphibians and birds. Carnivores are also mammals. That means they produce live young, produce milk and grow hair, like primates, ungulates and rodents).

Members of the Order Carnivora are typically carnivorous – carnivore means “meat eater”. There are however exceptions to this, with many being omnivorous and some that are even completely vegetarian.

In this course, we study mammals in the Order Carnivora which consists of at least 286 species. 

 Distinguishing Characteristics of Carnivores 

  • Most have teeth modified for eating meat (with some variations).
  • Skulls are varied but generally with a relatively large brain case
  • Brains relatively large, and intelligent
  • Most have well developed senses
  • Stomachs are always simple
  • Thick coat of hair -varied in colour
  • Most are medium sized animals -smallest a weasel around 80 grams, and largest are elephant seals to around 3,600 kg. 
  • Males commonly larger than females
  • Relatively long lived animals (most to 10 years or more)
  • Many are top predators in their ecosystems.


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Quality Courses - written and taught by experienced animal science specialists.

Great support - unlimited tutor and administrative support for the duration of your studies - as much or as little as you need. 

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