- Published: 03 February 2010
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Kathy Yard., age 12, of Peoria, I11., for her questions
Do cows have upper teeth?
If Bossy will let you look into her big mouth you will see that she has no upper front teeth. This does not mean that she has lost them, for she never had them. Instead of upper incisors, which are the teeth in the very front of the jaw, Mrs. Cow has a tough wad of gum. However, she has eight lower front teeth.
She also has twelve premolar teeth, three on each side of her mouth top and bottom, and twelve molar teeth, three on each side, top and bottom, The sturdy molars are very tough grinding teeth in the back of her jaws. Altogether, she has 32 teeth, which is the same number allotted to a human being. However, out teeth are different from a cow's teeth because we eat different kinds of food. Our teeth and the cows teeth are also different from those of a dog, a tiger and an elephant6 Each creature has the type of teeth most suitable for eating his favorite food. Some, like the elephant, have tusky teeth to defend themselves.
The cow, as we all know, is one of the gentlest of creatures. She eats no meat so she needs no fangs for tearing flesh. Though a strict vegetarian, a good milk cow needs an enormous amount of food during the year. She will eat more than three tons of silage and more than a ton of hay besides which she will nibble the grass from a couple of acres of pasture. In return for this mountain of food she will yield about three and a half tons of milk.
Hay and silage are concentrated foods prepared for the cow by man. But Mother Nature equipped the cow to live in a wild state without the help of man. She could get her living entirely from nibbling pasture land. However, she would get less food this way and yield less milk,
Her teeth are suited best for nibbling pasture.
If you watch a cow grazing, you will notice that she flicks her head from time to time. This is because she has no upper incisor teeth with which to bite off a mouthful of grass. She uses her lower front teeth then wraps her big soft tongue around a tuft of grass and jerks it loose by moving her head. A horse has both upper and lower incisor teeth. However, he is an intelligent follow end from time to time looks up to see what’s going on.
Though the cow has excellent grinding teeth she swallows each mouthful whole. When she has had her fill she goes off to some quiet place to chow the cud. She gives a hiccup and up comes a wad of damp food into her mouth. This time it gets a thorough chewing ns those sturdy molars go into action. Then it is swallowed to be fully digested.
The cow belongs to the family Bovidae, a group of animals which includes the sheep and the goats. No other family is quite so useful to man as the Bovidae and all of its members get :long very well without upper front teeth.