Do Cows Have Top Teeth?

Most cow lovers get into a heated debate over the myth that cows do not have teeth. It is not entirely true, still, believed by many people.

Cows look powerful, intimidating, and dangerous, therefore, people often wonder if cows have top teeth? Can cows bite? You have to worry a little about a cow biting you as they prefer kicking over biting.

Cows have a unique set of upper teeth that makes people confused about whether they can be counted as the upper incisors.

Most people find the eating habits of the cows strange. Cows pull the hay into their mouth using the tongue instead of the front teeth.

As herbivores and ruminants, cows’ mouths and digestive systems evolved differently than some other animals and human beings.

So, here in this short guide, you will find all the answers related to the upper incisors of the cow.

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Do Cows Have Top Teeth?

Cows do not have top teeth in place of upper incisors, cows have dental pads. It may sound shocking to you that cows do not have top front teeth making you question how do they eat then? Like most animals, they eat with their mouth – a mouth with no upper teeth. Cows are ruminants, so, having a dental pad works just fine for them.

The unique thick dental pad on the top of the mouth along with a rough tongue is used to grab, gather, and twist the grass.

Front teeth or incisors are not really needed by the cows as they eat and swallow the grass quickly with or little no chewing. After swallowing the bite, the grass is stored in the first of their four stomachs.

The food is then brought back up to the mouth to regurgitate it, then cows chew on it for a long time with molars to break down difficult to digest cellulose matter and absorb all the nutrients.

Bottom teeth and molars are enough to do the job, therefore, it does make any difference at all whether cows have upper incisors or not.

How Do Cows Eat Without Top Teeth?

Cows do not have any trouble eating without the center and top front teeth. Cows are ruminants and they survive on grass, grain, and forage.

They have four-compartment stomachs, so, their digestion as well as eating process is different from humans.

They swallow their food right away and chew later on once it is brought back to the mouth.

Many people wonder if cows do not have upper teeth, how do they pull out the nutrients from the food? Instead of upper teeth, cows have large, flat molars on the upper jaw for grinding and chewing food and grass.

The hard surface on the upper jaw called a dental pad in conjunction with a long, rasped tongue pulls large quantities of grass into the mouth. Here’s how cows graze and eat grass without needing the help of their upper teeth.

Pulling Grass into the Mouth – Without any help from incisors, molars, and premolars, cows take a bite and pull large quantities of grass into the mouth. Cows use their lips and rough tongue to grab food.

Using Dental Pad – Cows press their bottom teeth against the rugged dental pad to tear off the s and cut it into smaller pieces.

The dental pad is located on the upper jaw along the top, front gum line where the upper teeth should have been if they had any.

The hard, leathery top pad tears the grass and mixes it with cow saliva that contains enzymes to break down the food.

Swallowing – Cows do not waste their time and swallow food straight away. Cows do chew food but once it is back from the stomach to the mouth.

The cow’s esophagus works bidirectionally, taking the swallowed food from mouth to stomach and bringing the food back from the stomach to the mouth.

Storing Grass in the Stomach – The swallowed grass is transferred to one of the first stomachs of the cows called the rumen, where it waits till it goes back to the mouth.

Chewing Cud – Once the first stomach is full, the food is sent back for chewing. The cow chews it for a while and then swallows it again.

Cows usually lay down to chew as they regurgitate 50 times or approximately 6 to 8 hours a day that equals 30000 chews.

Chewing increases saliva production making cows swallow up to 80 quarts of saliva a day. Once ready, the cud moves to the stomach and intestine for a further breakdown of nutrients.

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Why Don’t Cows Have Upper Teeth?

Cows do not have upper teeth because they do not need them. They are unique this way and have fewer teeth than most animals.

Teeth or incisors are only present on the bottom jaw whereas the upper jaw has a hard, leathery dental pad.

Herbivores, especially ruminants have unique digestive anatomy owing to the lack of upper teeth and a four-compartment stomach.

The unique feature of a ruminant’s dental anatomy is having no front upper teeth but a dental pad instead.

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What Do Cows Have Instead of Upper Teeth?

As mentioned above, cows have dental or browsing pads which results from a lack of upper incisors.

Not just cattle, dental pads are present in all ruminants including cows, elk, deer, sheep, and goats.

It is a hard, rubbery skin pad that has an important role to play in tearing grass and forage.

How Many Teeth Do Cows Have?

Cows have three types of teeth; incisors, molars, and premolars totaling 32 teeth.

They have eight incisors on the bottom jaw in the front and six molars on each side in the back.

In the upper jaw, cows have molars on the back on each side, separated by the dental pad at the front.

Calves have a few temporary incisors when they are born, remaining incisors develop within one month.

Permanent adult teeth begin to erupt when the cows hit two years of age. Within one year, all the baby teeth are replaced by permanent teeth.


To conclude, cows do have teeth, however, they lack upper incisors. Upper front teeth are replaced by a dental pad which helps with the grinding and chewing of food.

Besides front top teeth, cows have molars on the upper and lower jaw. Owing to their unique digestive system, cows do not need front teeth.


  • Hi, I am Talon Juper, a passionate farmer, and Livestock Expert. I have done my graduation in Agriculture and Animal breeding. Relevant to Farm Desire as a research writer and data recorder.

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