Wolf Teeth - Defined
Wolf Teeth - In horses, wolf teeth are small, vestigial premolars. "Vestigial" means something that has lost most or all of its original function through evolution. Although wolf teeth are not present in all horses, they are not uncommon.
Wolf teeth, if present, are located in front of the other cheek teeth on one or both sides of the jaw. They are usually found only on the upper jaw but are sometimes found on the lower jaw, too.
Below: A horse skull. There are no wolf teeth present on this skull; however, the blue arrow is pointing to the approximate location where a wolf tooth would commonly be found.
Removing Wolf Teeth
In riding or driving horses wolf teeth can be a serious nuisance as they often come into contact with the bit, causing the horse discomfort or pain. For this reason, most horsemen have them removed. Since wolf teeth are typically small with poorly developed roots, they are usually quickly and easily extracted.
Below: Two sets of wolf teeth extracted from different horses. A quarter appears in the top of the photo for size reference. Underneath the quarter, on the left, are a pair of wolf teeth extracted from a yearling. On the right are a pair of wolf teeth extracted from a two-year old.
Unerupted (Blind) Wolf Teeth
Wolf teeth cannot always be seen. They can remain below the surface of the gum where they are called "unerupted" or "blind" wolf teeth. While the unerupted teeth themselves cannot be seen, they can usually be seen or felt as little bumps in the gum. Blind wolf teeth often cause a horse a great deal of soreness in the mouth so they should be removed the same as wolf teeth that have erupted above the gum line. Be careful if you decide to feel for blind wolf teeth in a horse's mouth - a horse may react suddenly and violently if you touch a sore spot on its gum.
Wolf Teeth Size
Unlike the other cheek teeth in horses - that is, the cheek teeth that are not wolf teeth - wolf teeth do not continue to grow and/or erupt through the gum throughout the life of the horse. Wolf teeth are small, and while they will grow in size somewhat during a horse's early years, they will remain undersized compared to the other teeth.
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