What Are 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.
If a horse has wolf teeth they will be located in front of the other cheek teeth (premolars and molars) on one or both sides of the jaw. They are usually only on the upper jaw but are sometimes found on the lower jaw.
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 they are typically small with poorly developed roots they are usually quickly and easily extracted.
Since wolf teeth have poorly developed roots they occasionally fall out on their own, usually during or after a horse is three years old. However, there is no guarantee they will fall out and in the meantime a horse carrying a bit can experience moderate to serious discomfort because of them. For that reason, many horsemen choose to have them removed.
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 there are often little bumps visible on the gum where they they lie beneath the surface. Unerupted 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 are visible.
Since the bumps in the gum are small and can be difficult to see, some people like to run their fingers across the gums and feel for them. However, this can be dangerous. The bumps are often painful and a horse may react suddenly and violently if they are touched.
Wolf Teeth Size
Unlike the rest of a horse's 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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