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Sweet Teeth: Inside the Mouths of Ruminants

By Gabbie Kumar, Sanctuary Generalist

Did you know that some of our furry farm friends do not have a top row of front teeth These animals are classified as ruminants and they have four stomach compartments as opposed to humans (and horses) who just have one.

Ruminants, such as cows, goats, and sheep, are just a few examples of our friendly herbivores that have a dental pad on the roofs of their mouths. Their dental pads are hard and strong allowing them to easily tear off grass, their main source of food, and chew it by pressing their bottom teeth against the tops of their mouths. Even without their top incisors, they still have 32 teeth in their mouth: the same as humans (including wisdom teeth).

Cows, sheep, and goats do have molars on their upper and lowers jaws, but the incisors are found only on the bottom, which vets can use to tell their age! Hence the phrase, "long in the tooth."

Etta shows off her pearly whites
Etta shows off her pearly whites

Don't think we were forgetting about our fluffy alpaca companions. Alpacas are camelids and they are slightly different from cows, sheep, and goats. They are often referred to as modified ruminants because they have three stomach compartments instead of four. Alpacas have 30 - 32 permanent teeth (the number of premolars varies) and a hard dental pad on the roof of their mouths instead of top front incisors. But modified ruminants and true ruminants all favor the same food – hay!


All of the West Place ruminants and modified ruminants can be sponsored with a monthly donation. Your sponsorship covers the costs associated with food and supplements, basic preventative care, grooming, enrichment, and provides budget relief that allows us to continue rescuing animals in need.


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