Colonic motility and transit of digesta during hard and soft faeces formation in rabbits

J Physiol. 1983 May;338:75-86. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1983.sp014661.


Rabbits produce hard and soft faeces in a circadian rhythm. This study was undertaken in order to examine the motor function of the colon in relation to the formation of these two types of faeces. Colonic motility was measured in unanaesthetized rabbits using strain-gauge transducers and simultaneous radiography. Three types of contractions were found in the rabbit proximal colon: haustral activity, segmental activity, and mass peristalsis. Distinctly different motor patterns were observed during the formation of hard and soft faeces. When hard faeces were produced, the motor activity of the proximal colon was enhanced. It consisted of segmental and haustral activity. The segmental contractions separated the digesta into faecal pellets and forced them slowly aborad, whereas the movements of the haustra carried the liquid contents back towards the caecum. When soft faeces were produced haustral and segmental activity was reduced and transfer of the digesta through the proximal colon was accelerated by mass movements. In contrast to the proximal colon, the motility of the distal colon was enhanced during the formation of soft faeces and decreased during the production of hard faeces. The results support the concept that hard faeces are chiefly produced by a separation of liquids and solids and by a retrograde transfer of liquid digesta rather than by an increased absorption of water.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Colon / physiology*
  • Feces*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility*
  • Hardness
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Peristalsis
  • Rabbits
  • Time Factors