Hippo Teeth: Everything You Need to Know

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Given their enormous size, there's no doubt why hippos are one of the most feared mammals. Besides their scary appearance, they also have strange mouths with scary hippopotamus teeth. Although these huge mammals are herbivores, they have long, sharp canine teeth that can inflict serious damage.

Hippos are among the heaviest animals on earth. They weigh up to 4.5 tons, almost twice the weight of a typical vehicle. Most people think that since hippos are herbivorous mammals, they don't harm flies.

But don't let the animal diet fool you when it comes to aggression. Hippos may have the friendliest looking short-legged babies, but they are very strong and can be very aggressive.

What kind of teeth do hippos have?

The strongest animal bites a hippopotamus
Hippos have very sharp canine teeth that they use to fight other hippos.

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People often think of the teeth of herbivores as harmless and not sharp. Most of them do, but hippos don't. Hippos have a complete set of heterodental teeth, including incisors, canines, premolars, and molars.

Hippos have a lot of strange features – huge half-submerged bodies, stubby legs, thick leathery skin without hair, and a blood-like fluid. However, one of the strangest features they may have is their tooth structure. Unlike normal herbivores, hippos not only have leaf-crushing molars, but also extra-long canines that can grow more than a foot long.

As a herbivore, you might think that hippos, like cows, only have flat teeth to help them grind up plant food. Surprisingly, however, these herbivorous mammals also had very sharp canines and flat molars. These canines are incredibly long and used to compete with other hippos for food or mates.

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How many teeth does a hippo have?

animal with the toughest skin
Hippos have 36 teeth.

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Hippos typically have 36 teeth. Their tooth form consists of two incisors, one canine, three premolars, and three molars, distributed in each quadrant. Some hippos have more teeth than usual because they retain their baby teeth even as adults. These baby teeth can remain for many years after the permanent teeth have replaced them.

Hippos usually have a tooth formula: incisors 2/2, canines 1/1, premolars 3-4/3-4, molars 3/3.

What do hippos use their teeth for?

Like most herbivores, hippos have premolars and molars collectively known as "cheek teeth," which are used to crush and grind food. These heavy mammals eat about 50 pounds of food a day, which puts their molars to good use. However, the protruding foot-long canines are not used for food, as the hippo's diet consists only of plants. Instead, these fearsome canids are used as aggressive weapons to bite and fight other hippos.

The upper incisors and lower canines of the hippopotamus are represented by the giant tusks in the two jaws. The lower canines are the largest and most ivory-like teeth and are used as weapons for defense and attack.

These razor-sharp canines are sharpened as the hippo grinds in. Their broad, horny lips help hippos grab grass, which they then chew with their cheek teeth.

What are hippopotamus teeth made of?

Hippo Skull: Hippo Skull
Hippo tusks are made from ivory.


The largest canine teeth in a hippopotamus' mouth are commonly called tusks. This is similar to elephant tusks and is actually made of the same material. The tusks, or canines, of hippopotamuses have tusks beneath layers of dentin and enamel, the white material that makes up the prominent tusks of elephants.

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This ivory is a very expensive and popular material that is hunted and poached by many people. Hippo ivory is harder to carve than ivory, but is denser and less prone to abrasion. This is why large numbers of hippos are hunted for their tusks. In the 18th century, hippopotamus teeth were widely used to make dentures and replace individual teeth.

How strong is a hippo's bite?

With a bite force of 1,800 PSI or 8,100 Newtons, it's no surprise that hippos have one of the strongest bites in the world. This bite force is far greater than that of a lion, which has a bite force of 650 PSI, and it also exceeds the bite force of a polar bear, which is 1,200 PSI.

In an aggressive show of strength, hippos can open their jaws an impressive 150 to 180 degrees, displaying their razor-sharp teeth. In the grisly image, only the incisors and canines are visible, jutting out over a foot long. With a ferocious bite and unique jaw size, hippos can easily snap a human body in half with one bite.

How long are hippo teeth?

A hippo's incisors can grow to an impressive 1.2 feet long, while canines, or tusks, can grow up to 1.5 feet, making the hippopotamus hold the record for the largest teeth among land mammals.

Male hippos have larger teeth than females, and these teeth often display aggressive dominance. Despite their plant-based diet, male hippos often fight each other for food and mates, and these tusks are an important weapon in the fight.

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Do hippopotamuses keep growing their teeth?

A hippopotamus' incisors and tusks grow continuously throughout its life, but its premolars and molars do not. Although their cheek teeth are protected by enamel, they are still prone to wear and tear. Grind too much and a hippo's molars can become overly worn, which can prevent them from eating properly, resulting in starvation.

Can hippos bite?

Aggressive Animals: Hippos
Hippos are very aggressive and unpredictable, often charging at other animals and even humans.

©Karel Bartik/Shutterstock.com

Hippos are among the most aggressive animals on earth. They may be herbivores, but they are inherently dangerous. In Africa, they kill about 500 people a year with their giant jaws alone. However, this aquatic mammal is at risk and its numbers are in alarming decline.


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