Many horse owners can become confused between canine and wolf teeth — sometimes using these terms interchangeably when they are, in fact, very different. There are several key differences between canine and wolf teeth.
Let’s take a closer look inside your horse’s mouth…
The Canine Tooth
Canine teeth are usually found only in the mouths of male horses, including stallions and geldings. Also referred to as ‘tusks’, ‘tushes’ or ‘bridle teeth’, the lower canine teeth normally erupt at age four, with the upper canine teeth following at age five.
Canine teeth appear in the mouth for the purpose of fighting — as stallions compete for mares during breeding season. However, they also play a role in chewing, whereas wolf teeth do not. Interestingly, canine teeth do appear in up to 20% of mares, but they are usually very small.
The Wolf Tooth
In contrast, wolf teeth may be found in the mouths of both sexes, but the key difference is they no longer serve a purpose. Wolf teeth are the vestiges of evolution, which is why they’re often called ‘vestigial’ or ‘remnant’ teeth.
Another interesting difference between canine and wolf teeth is their location, which is often the reason why canine teeth remain when wolf teeth are extracted. When the bit is in place, it sits well behind the canines, but often very close to the wolf teeth.
This proximity of the bit to the wolf teeth often results in discomfort and pain. Wolf teeth also erupt at a much earlier age — around six to eight months — and they may be found in many locations within the mouth, including in unexpected places.
While horses only have two canine teeth, up to eight wolf teeth have been extracted from horses. They can often be blind — meaning they haven’t erupted through the gum — or even floating with no root attachment. For these reasons, extraction is often recommended for wolf teeth.