How many teeth do horses have?

-Horses have forty-eight teeth. These include twelve incisors, adapted for cropping grass, unlike many other herbivores whose incisors are adapted for grazing on tougher vegetation. There are sixteen premolars and thirty-two molars, giving a total of forty-eight teeth.

What is a horse?

-A horse is a large, odd-toed ungulate mammal. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today. Humans began to domesticate horses around 4000 BC, and their domestication is believed to have been widespread by 3000 BC.

-There are about 300 breeds of horse in the world today. All purebred horses belong to one of three major types: draft, saddle, or harness. Other intermediate types also exist, for example between heavy draft and light riding horse types such as some warmbloods. Modern horses have developed primarily as a means of transport prehistoric times and were originally not bred for any other specific purpose.

Types of Horse Teeth:

There are 6 types of horse teeth that help with different functions.

-Incisors:  These are used for grabbing grass and biting it off.

-Canines: These teeth are found between the incisors and premolars. They do not show in the horse’s mouth unless its lip is rolled, showing only the top front surface of these teeth. Horses use their canines to grasp things with their mouths, such as a bit or a person’s arm. The lower canine teeth bite against the upper cuspid tooth when a horse eats hay or other coarse feed without chewing it first into a fine pulp.

-Premolars: There are six premolar teeth on each side of both jaws behind the canines, three above and three below. These premolars grind against opposing molars to with chewing food so it can be swallowed. The premolars are very important in the horse’s diet as they ensure that food is ground up for easy digestion

-Molars: There are twelve molars on each side of both jaws, six above and six below. These grind against opposing molars to with chewing food so it can be swallowed.

-Cheek teeth: Horses have a total of thirty-four cheek teeth made up of premolars and molars.

-Chewy Horse Treats: The treats you find at your local tack store should not be hard like a rock but should be able to bend/flex before breaking if you attempt to break them using your bare hands or those meant for human consumption might not be safe for horses to ingest as they sometimes contain sodium nitrate.

Anatomy of Horse Teeth:

-The incisors of a horse are its front teeth. The incisor teeth of the upper jaw fit into the notches of the incisor teeth of the lower jaw at the front end, and rest against a hard pad in the roof of its mouth behind its molars toward the back end. They do not continue all the way to the back of a horse’s mouth.

-The premolar teeth, sometimes called “pinchers,” are located between each set of incisors and molars on either side, above and below. These assist in cutting food before it is swallowed and in chewing tough feeds such as hay or silage.

Uses of Horse Tooth:

-Horse teeth are used for eating tough foods like hay and grass, but to get the food smaller pieces are needed before you can swallow it. The bit in the horse’s mouth is used to make the horse chew their food more effectively.

A horse’s tooth changes as they age:

-As a young horse age its teeth will change as follows: 3-5 years – 20 permanent incisors with no premolars or molars 5-7 years – 24 permanent incisors with premolars erupting 7-9 years – 28 permanent incisors with premolars and some molars erupting 9+ years – All 32 permanent incisors fully erupted, most molars present and functioning, and all premolar teeth present and functioning

 An interesting piece about- Horse’s Teeth!

-Horses’ teeth grow continually throughout their lifetime and, therefore, need to be checked regularly by a veterinarian or equine dentist. Every twelve months horses produce a new layer of tooth, and the old layer is pushed out of the mouth. If this does not happen due to uneven wear on the teeth, malocclusion can result.

Feeding & Digestion:

-A horse’s digestive system is adapted for digesting tough food such as grasses. A muscular organ called the cecum is found between the large and small intestines where special enzymes break down tough fiber into sugars which are then absorbed into the body through the intestinal wall.

-The average sized horse eats around four to eight percent of its body weight in dry matter per day and drinks around 10 to 30 gallons of water.

-Horses that eat and drink quickly and/or a lot are at greater risk than other horses because they produce greater volumes of saliva which can pool in the mouth or run down the windpipe causing infections or choking. Some causes of an ill-fitting tooth are hereditary but other reasons are due to injuries caused through accidents, poor nutrition, lack of roughage, boredom, cribbing etc.

-Horses should be fed slowly to encourage chewing while using hay nets or slow feeder hay nets will also prevent choking while eating. Horses should never eat when excited as this encourages swallowing food too quickly therefore encouraging choke. Harsh chemicals should not be used on the teeth if it is found that they need to be filed down. This can damage the tooth and even cause the horse pain if overdone. Just like with human’s teeth, horses should see their dental hygienist at least once every 6 months for proper checking of their health!

Common Dental Problems:

-Horses’ teeth should not be left unattended to because if untreated they can lead to infection which could kill your horse! If you feel your horses’ teeth need attention, please do not hesitate to contact your local vet who will take care any problems! The average cost of filing a horses’ teeth is around £80-£120 depending on the severity of the problem.


-Horses’ teeth are very important to their survival because they use them for eating food and drinking water, therefore if the horse is unable to eat or drink properly it cannot survive! It’s extremely vital that you take your horses’ teeth seriously as tooth problems can cause infections which may lead to death!

Lisa Thompson

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