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Hippo Teeth Facts: Size, Strength, and Purpose

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Explore fascinating details about hippo teeth, including their 36 total teeth, in this informative Africaproof blog post. Ideal for travelers seeking factual knowledge.

Hippo Teeth Facts: Size, Strength, and Purpose

Did you know that hippos have a total of 36 teeth?

When it comes to these formidable African mammals, their teeth play a crucial role in their survival and well-being. From the size and strength of their canines and incisors to the unique dental structure that allows for a powerful bite force, understanding hippo teeth is essential for appreciating the incredible capabilities of these fascinating creatures.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hippos have 36 teeth, including canines, incisors, premolars, and molars.
  • The largest and most prominent teeth are the canines and incisors, which grow continuously throughout the hippo’s life.
  • Hippo teeth are used for fighting off predators and competing with other hippos.
  • The molars and premolars of hippos are designed explicitly for chewing vegetation.
  • Proper dental care is crucial for the health and well-being of hippos.

The Fascinating Characteristics of Hippo Teeth

Hippo teeth possess unique characteristics that distinguish them from the teeth of other animals. The incisors and canines of hippos are exceptionally long, with the lower canines being the longest and most tusk-like. These teeth contribute to the hippos’ powerful bite force, nearly three times that of a lion. The incisors are also distinct, with the lower ones jutting forwards. Furthermore, hippos have a specific dental structure that allows their jaws to open almost 180 degrees, enabling them to deliver devastating bites to their opponents. Understanding these characteristics helps to highlight the crucial role that teeth play in the territorial defence and survival of hippos.

Did you know that the bite force of a hippo is nearly three times that of a lion? The incredible length of their incisors and canines, especially the lower canines, contributes to their formidable bite force. These teeth serve as their primary tool for defence against predators and competitors. In addition, the unique dental structure of hippos allows their jaws to open almost 180 degrees, allowing them to deliver powerful bites. It’s fascinating to see how the size and shape of hippo teeth are perfectly adapted for their survival strategies.

Comparative Bite Forces

AnimalBite Force (in pounds per square inch)

As shown in the table above, the bite force of a hippo is significantly higher than that of a lion or even a human. This immense bite force is primarily due to hippos’ elongated and powerful teeth. The incisors and canines, particularly the lower canines, play a pivotal role in their ability to defend themselves and maintain territorial dominance. With their teeth and jaw structure, hippos can survive in their natural habitat and assert dominance when necessary.

Understanding the fascinating characteristics of hippo teeth is essential for appreciating the crucial role these teeth play in the lives of these magnificent creatures.

The Importance of Dental Care for Hippos

Dental care is essential for hippos’ overall health and well-being. While hippos do not brush their teeth with toothpaste like humans, they have natural dental hygiene methods. Hippos rely on aquatic creatures like fish and barbels to clean their teeth. These fish nibble off dead skin and parasites from the hippo’s teeth, providing a natural cleaning service.

In captivity, zookeepers may assist in cleaning hippos’ teeth with giant toothbrushes. This removes any remaining debris, preventing plaque buildup, which can lead to dental problems such as tooth decay, gum diseases, and infections. These issues can significantly affect a hippo’s ability to eat and defend itself, threatening its overall health and well-being.

Therefore, understanding how to care for hippo teeth and implementing proper dental hygiene practices are vital for ensuring the well-being of these incredible animals. Regular dental cleanings, check-ups, and a healthy diet can go a long way in maintaining hippo dental health and preventing dental problems.


What are some interesting facts about hippo teeth?

Hippopotamuses are known for their large population and their enormous teeth. They have two long, curved canine teeth, also known as tusks, which can grow up to 50 centimetres. Their molars can weigh up to 1.5 pounds each.

Do hippos continuously grow teeth like elephants?

No, hippos don’t continuously grow their teeth like elephants do. Instead, their teeth are continuously worn down and replaced throughout their lives.

How are the teeth of pygmy hippos different from common hippos?

Pygmy hippos have smaller and less pronounced canines compared to common hippos. Their teeth are not as large and imposing.

Are hippos’ incisors as prominent as their big canines?

No, hippos’ incisors are not as prominent as their big canines. The incisors are not as noticeable and are used for grasping and tearing vegetation.

What is the purpose of hippo’s teeth?

Hippos’ big teeth are used primarily for fighting, intimidating rivals, and defence. Their large canines are also used for breeding and territorial displays.

Are hippos’ teeth made of ivory?

Yes, hippos’ teeth are made of ivory, just like elephants’. However, the trade and poaching of hippo ivory are illegal and endanger the hippo population.

How do hippos use their teeth for feeding?

Hippos use their large molars to grind grass and other vegetation, as they are primarily herbivores. Their teeth are well-equipped for processing large amounts of plant matter.

Why are hippos’ teeth considered a valuable commodity?

The large teeth of hippos, especially the tusks, are considered valuable for ivory. This has led to poaching and illegal trade, harming the species’ endangerment.

Are hippos at risk due to the illegal ivory trade?

Yes, hippos are at risk due to the illegal ivory trade. The poaching and trade of hippo ivory significantly threaten the endangered hippo population.

What are some unique features of hippo teeth?

Hippos have impressive teeth, including sharp canines and large molars, which they use for feeding, fighting, and territorial displays. Their teeth are one of the most distinctive features of these ferocious African animals.

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