Chances are you don’t spend too much time wondering about goat teeth.
However, there are some interesting facts about goat dentition you may not know.
We all see the funny little bottom teeth in goats’ mouths as they munch away at brush and twigs but have you ever seen the top teeth?
This is why some wonder whether goats have teeth on the bottom and top.
Goats do have teeth on the bottom and top of their mouths. They have a full set of teeth on the bottom but only have molars on the top. Since they eat plants, they don’t need a full set of teeth. As babies, goats have no teeth and will go through two full sets of teeth until their adult ones grow in.
There are some interesting facts about how goat teeth develop.
Let’s look a bit more about whether goats have teeth on the bottom and top.
How Do Goat Teeth Grow?
Goat teeth grow the way many ruminants develop teeth.
Young goats don’t develop baby teeth.
They don’t have any teeth at all during the first period of their life.
They don’t start developing adult teeth until they are about one year old.
They don’t develop permanent teeth until they are four years old.
As goats age, the permanent teeth start to come in and push out the existing teeth.
They develop multiple sets of teeth and don’t grow their permanent incisors until they are around four years old.
They go through four sets of incisors as they grow.
Once they have their permanent teeth, the tooth condition slowly deteriorates.
After the initial growth of teeth, they will begin to lose them, with most goats losing teeth or having worn down or broken teeth by eight years of age.
Goats have multiple phases of tooth development.
First, the central incisors grow in.
Then around 1.5-2 years of age, they get their second set of incisors.
The third set grows in around 2.5-3 years, and the fourth and final set of permanent incisors develops at 3.5-4 years.
How Do Goats Chew Their Food?
The dental pad and bottom incisors work together to grind food as goats eat.
The plants and woody bark of rough pasture make for a coarse diet and take a toll on their teeth which is why they go through so many sets of teeth.
Goats use their tongue to move their food to the back molars to further masticate the food and prepare it for digestion.
Molars are flat teeth and make the perfect grinding method for goats.
This is why they get away with not having front upper teeth for chewing.
Goats have a four-chambered stomach which means they digest food differently than humans.
The first chamber of the stomach is called the rumen.
It ferments and breaks the food down before regurgitating it back into the goat’s mouth for further chewing.
This important digestive step is imperative to proper and healthy digestion in all ruminants, including goats.
Why Don’t Goats Have Top Teeth?
Animals with teeth have evolved the perfect set of chompers for their food.
Since goats don’t need top teeth to chew their usual food, there is no reason for them to have rows of teeth on the front top of their mouths.
Simply put, evolution has removed the growth of upper teeth because it is not integral to the digestive process in goats.
While front upper teeth are unnecessary for the goat digestion process, they have other adaptations for successfully chewing their food.
They have dental pads to efficiently rub food against the bottom teeth to break food down for digestion.
While it may seem like goats should have fewer teeth than humans, they have 32 in total.
This is the same amount of teeth found in human mouths if you count all 4 wisdom teeth.
This means goats are well equipped for chewing and digesting food without front upper teeth.
What Kind Of Teeth Do Goats Have?
Since we now know goats do not have front upper teeth, you may wonder what kind of teeth they have.
The tooth-growing process of ruminants is very different from ours, and they develop different kinds of teeth to suit their eating and digestive needs.
Let’s look at the different types of teeth found in domestic ruminants.
A goat’s bottom jaw has a total of 8 incisor teeth.
Similar to human incisors, these teeth are predominantly responsible for grasping food and pulling it into the mouth, where it is further chewed and broken down.
Goats use their lips to assist the incisors in pulling food into the mouth.
If you keep goats, you’ve noticed this continuous motion as they chomp away at overgrown shrubs, tree bark, plants, or their commercial goat feed.
The incisors are the first teeth to chew through leaves, branches, stems, and grasses.
Related Reading: Goat bites and when to worry
Molars are the largest teeth in a goat’s mouth.
The total amount of molars in a fully grown goat is 12.
These twelve teeth are incredibly important in breaking down and chewing all the tasty treats and food your herd of goats eats.
This is especially true for the tougher foods your goats enjoy.
Like other ruminant animals, goats regurgitate their food from the first chamber of their stomach and chew the food, also called cud.
Goats spend a lot of their time chewing away at this cud before swallowing it again before it is further digested.
Goats need to have very strong molars to chew on this cud and their raw food all day.
The molars are ridged to help make this process more efficient.
Goats have a large and toothless gap in the top part of their mouths.
This is typically where canines are found in omnivorous and carnivorous animals.
Instead of these canine teeth, goats have a set of 12 premolars.
The premolars help with the hefty work of the other molars to effectively chew food raw and then again when it is regurgitated as cud.
The premolars have a high crown which is very effective at breaking up food alongside the ridged molars.