Can I Tell a Horse’s Age By Its Teeth?

Can you really tell how old a horse is by their teeth? Absolutely, although most people cannot! It takes a lot of practice to avoid being taken by the horse trader who is adept at selling 16 year old horses as six-year-old horses. With any luck, after reading this article, you will look back and be able to answer this question. ‘Can you really tell how old a horse is by their teeth?’

When a foal is born, he may have two nipper, (front), teeth. If he’s not born with them present, they should announce themselves within a week. Around the first birthday, he should have all the incisor or milk teeth. By two to two and a-half years of age horses have shed all their baby teeth and acquired their adult teeth. Around three years old, he should have his permanent nipper teeth. You should understand that nipper teeth are appropriately named. In his fourth year, he should be receiving his divider teeth, which sit on each side of his nipper teeth. At five years, he has all his teeth, and should not be using them for taste-testing you. He should have in all, forty teeth. From here on out his teeth will continue to change. Each tooth will change from a rectangular shape, to round, to eventually a triangular shape.

Around six years of age, the horse’s teeth get little pits in them that resemble cavities. As the horse ages, the central incisor pits disappear. This is around age seven. By the time a horse hits the ripe old age of eight, (in his prime actually), all the lower teeth have lost their pits, but, a new dent in the teeth, known as a dental star shows up in the lower center incisors. From age eleven on up, the teeth will begin to jut forward toward his lips with each passing year. With this, you will notice that his teeth will become more triangular.

Many horsemen do not know how to place age on a horse just by looking at his teeth. Some vets can’t tell either. Practice makes perfect when aging a horse. It is a wise choice to invest the time into learning all you can when it comes to horses. They can’t tell you what they’ve been through, how old they are, or what they know. You can tell a lot by looking them over really well. Have you ever looked at a horse’s temples or orbital sockets? Aside from standing there scratching your head and wondering can you really tell how old a horse is by their teeth, and you can look elsewhere. A peek at their temples can speak volumes as well. Most times, deep temples, right above his eyes is indicative of age. If you know someone who really has the ability to determine age by looking at a horse’s teeth, you should hang around him a lot, to learn yourself.

With age, the horse’s teeth do not get shorter as they do in humans. A horse’s teeth continue to grow as they age and wear down from chewing. So the length of a tooth will not be an accurate tool for measuring the age of your equine.

aging a horse by his teethIn the past horse traders have made attempts to alter a horse’s teeth to mimic the dental stars and divots in the teeth to make him appear younger than he really is. You can tell this has been done by looking for the white edge of enamel, which should be surrounding the real mark on his tooth. The best way to determine the age of your horse is to keep accurate records, or if it is a new purchase remember this: around ages six to twelve, the central incisors are round. Around ages eight to eighteen, they become more triangular. The lateral teeth are round or rectangular in shape around age six to thirteen. These teeth become more triangular between nine and nineteen years old. The little teeth on the corners are round around years seven to fourteen, and will become more triangular between ages nine and twenty. From there, the teeth will all become more triangular as he ages. There are books to be read on aging a horse by his teeth. If you have any serious doubts about what you are getting, it is imperative you contact a reliable vet to do a pre-purchase exam. Can you really tell how old a horse is by his teeth? You most certainly can.

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