You may have heard the common myth that cows have no teeth. While it’s not entirely true, cows do have an unusual set of upper teeth which leads to some confusion.
Cows do have teeth, but they don’t have any upper incisors (front teeth). Instead, cows have a unique dental pad on the top of their mouths, which they use to help them gather more grass. Cows have large grinding teeth called molars at the back of their mouths.
In this article, we’re going to look at cows’ teeth and how they use them, and also explore their unique upper dental pad and how it works.
Do Cows Have Teeth?
Yes, cows have teeth! Cows have sharp teeth on the bottom of their mouths (called incisors) for cutting grass and other foliage, and large grinding teeth called molars at the back of their mouths on the upper and lower part of their jaws.
Do Cows Have Upper Teeth?
Cows have upper teeth at the back of their mouth only. These are large, flat molars used for grinding and chewing grass.
Cows lack any incisors (front teeth) on their upper jaw and instead have a large hard surface called a dental pad, which they use in conjunction with their long, rasped tongue to help them gather large quantities of grass.
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How Many Teeth Do Cows Have?
Cows have 32 teeth in total, made up of eight incisors, twelve premolars, and twelve molars. In addition, cows have a large dental pad on the upper part of their mouths in place of upper incisors.
How Many Teeth do Calves Have?
Like humans, calves have a first set of temporary teeth called deciduous teeth, which fall out and are eventually replaced with their permanent set of teeth.
Cow calves have 20 teeth, comprised of eight incisors and twelve premolars. These teeth fall out one by one as they are replaced by the cow’s adult teeth. This process can take up to five years!
Cow calves do not have molars, which only appear in adult cows as permanent teeth.
What Types of Teeth Do Cows Have?
Cows have three main types of teeth: incisors, premolars, and molars.
Here is a brief overview of each type of tooth (plus the dental pad), where they are found, and what they are used for.
|Incisors||Front (Lower Jaw Only)||Sharp teeth for cutting and ripping foliage|
|Premolars||Behind the Incisors and Dental Pad||Flat teeth for grinding and chewing|
|Molars||Cheek (Upper and Lower Jaw)||Flat teeth for grinding and chewing|
|Dental Pad||Front (Upper Jaw Only)||A thick pad of skin used with the tongue to gather grass.|
Each type of cow tooth is different. Let’s look at each in turn and then the dental pad and see what they are like:
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Foud at the front of the mouth, and only on the lower jaw. Cows do not have upper incisors. Incisors are sharp teeth used for cutting and ripping thick foliage.
Cows usually use their tongue for grass, but for thick clumps or denser foliage, cows pinch their food between their dental pad and their bottom teeth, using their sharp incisors for cutting.
Found in the cheek, behind the incisors on both the upper and lower jaw. Cows have 12 premolars. Premolars are large, flat teeth used for grinding.
Found in the cheek, at the back of the mouth behind the premolars. Cows have 12 molars. Molars are large, flat teeth used for grinding.
Molars are only found in adult cows since they can take up to five years to appear fully, and there are no temporary molars in calves.
Found at the top of the mouth, in place of upper incisors. The dental pad is a hard, rubbery pad of skin found inside a cow’s mouth, where their upper incisors would be if they had any.
It’s used in conjunction with the tongue to grab large quantities of grass.
Do Cows Have Canine Teeth?
Cows do have canine teeth, found on their lower jaw along with the rest of their incisor teeth. Since cows do not eat meat, their canines are not pointed and are indiscernible from the rest of their lower incisors.
Read More: Can Cows Eat Meat?
Do Cows Have Molars?
Yes, cows have large molars and premolars at the back of their mouths. Cows molars are found both on their upper and lower jaw and are used for grinding and chewing grass and other foliage.
Do Cows Have Incisor Teeth?
Cows have eight incisor teeth, all found on their lower jaw at the front of their mouth. Unlike most mammals, cows have no upper incisors, and instead, have a pad of hard skin called a dental pad.
What Do Cows’ Teeth Look Like?
Cows have three different types of teeth, and their front teeth look quite different from their back teeth.
At the front of their mouths, cows have incisor teeth. These are sharp teeth used for cutting and shredding foliage. They are vertical and sharp, similar to human front teeth.
In their cheeks, at the back of their mouths cows have premolars and molars. These types of teeth are much larger than their front teeth and are flat on top. Cows use their back teeth (sometimes called cheek teeth) for grinding up grass and other foliage.
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What is a Cow’s Dental Pad Used For?
A cow’s dental pad is a thick, tough pad of skin found on the upper part of a cow’s mouth, where the upper incisors would be found in other mammals.
Cows use their dental pad in conjunction with their tongue to grab onto grass and other foliage.
Cows use their sharp tongue to grab clumps of long grass, which they press between their dental pad on the top of their mouth, and their sharp lower incisor teeth, to cut the grass for eating.
Dental pads (also known as browsing pads) are found in all ruminants, which include cows, elk, deer, sheep, and goats.
To sum up, cows do have teeth on both their upper and lower jaws, although they lack any upper incisors (front teeth).
Cows have 32 teeth in total, made up of eight incisors, twelve premolars, and twelve molars.
Calves are both with a set of 20 temporary teeth, made up of eight incisors and twelve premolars. Calves do not have molars.
In place of upper incisors, cows have a hard, rubbery pad of skin called a dental pad or browsing pad.
Cows use their dental pad in conjunction with their tongues for pinching clumps of grass between their dental pads and their lower incisors, which they use for ripping and tearing grass and other foliage.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.