An age old, yet nearly forgotten art, is how to tell a horse’s age by its teeth. Old timers can do it, and so can you! Simply study the pictures below, memorize the special characteristics of each stage. Then go practice on horses that someone knows the age of. See how close you can come to the real age of the horse.
6 months – 2 years: At a young age, the horse will only have 4 incisors. They will have their milk teeth, but these are small and shouldn’t be counted. By the time the horse reaches two years of age, two more incisors should have grown in to bring the total to 6.
2 years – 4 1/2 years: At two years, there should be 6 incisors in addition to the milk teeth. The teeth will continue to grow and spread until the horse is around 4 1/2 years old, at which time they will begin to replace the milk teeth. The milk teeth will disappear as the teeth continue to grow.
5 years – 9 years: It can be difficult to estimate age within this range because there are very few indicators. The milk teeth have disappeared, and the teeth are growing larger (especially the teeth toward the back.) If the teeth still seem somewhat small or appear to be smaller in the back, the horse is likely toward the younger end of this scale; if the teeth are all large, then the horse is likely older.
10 years – 15 years: At 10 years of age, it becomes a bit easier to tell the age of the horse. A groove, known as Galvayne’s groove, begins to appear at the top of the rear incisors. This groove will continue to grow until the horse is around 15 years of age, at which point the groove will go down the entire length of the tooth.
15 years – 25 years: This is another span that is hard to tell the age correctly, because there aren’t many indicators. As the horse gets older, the Galvayne’s groove will slowly begin to disappear starting at the top of the tooth. By 25 years of age, the groove may only appear on the bottom half of the tooth… though it may still be on part of the upper half as well.
25 years – 30 years: During these years Galvayne’s groove continues to disappear. A horse with no groove or with only a small groove at the bottom of the tooth is likely 30 years old or older.
All horses should have:
- Six front teeth in the upper jaw, and six in the lower jaw.
- These are called Incisors (biting teeth). and are used for tearing grass and other forage
- The pair in the middle are called centrals.
- The next pair on either side are the laterals,
- The outer teeth are called corners.
- Behind the incisors lie the powerful molars (cheek teeth).
- Three pre-molars on each side of both jaws and three permanent molars, used for grinding food.
- The grinding surfaces are called tables. They tilt downwards and outwards at 10-15 degrees.
The upper jaw is about 25% wider than the lower jaw, which moves in a circular motion, bringing the cheek teeth tables into contact. An adult horse has 24 permanent molars. while an immature horse has only 12 temporary molars.
Things to consider:
- The younger a horse is the better your chances of accurately determining his age by his teeth. The older a horse the more his lifestyle has affected the wear and shape of his teeth and the more difficult it is to determine his age.
- External factors such as feed choice, grazing on sandy soil and vices, such as cribbing can cause the surface of the incisors to wear quicker than normal. Breed can also play a small role in teeth development. Some breeds, especially ponies mature slower and the eruption of their permanent teeth are delayed accordingly.
- While this method has been used for centuries, new research has confirmed that teeth do lie about age. A horse’s teeth may give you a rough estimate of its age only.