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Posted by on Apr 7, 2020 in TellMeWhy |

How Many Teeth Does a Rabbit Have and When Do They Stop Growing?

How Many Teeth Does a Rabbit Have and When Do They Stop Growing?

Rabbits have four incisors, two on the top, and two on the bottom. Those big front teeth, called incisors, get all the attention, but an adult rabbit actually has a full set of 28 teeth. Right behind the top incisor teeth are two small peg-like teeth called auxiliary incisors or “peg teeth”. In addition, rabbits have cheek teeth that they use to grind their food. These are the 6 upper premolars, the 4 lower premolars, 6 upper molars and 6 lower molars.

All rabbits have huge buck teeth in front, and with good reason. Being vegetarians they have to make a meal of leaf, grass, or vegetable. The plants have developed ways of protecting their leaves from such animals, for they need leaves to make their own food. They have many ways of dealing with animals such as rabbits: they have thorns and needles, or their leaves have certain chemicals that weaken the teeth of chewing animals. So much so that the animal may die because it is no longer able to chew food.

Rabbits do not face any such problem. Their front teeth grow as long as they live. The upper teeth are raised. With these sharp-edged teeth they find it easy to cut grass stems. Rabbits use their incisors, which have sharp edges, to slice like scissors through the rough, fibrous vegetation they eat. Their cheek teeth, on the other hand, help them chew their food into smaller pieces that are easier to swallow.

This combination of teeth comes in handy in the wild, because rabbits are herbivores that feed on tough vegetation. Sure, rabbit would love to snack on carrots all day like Bugs Bunny, but most of them are forced to survive on fibrous grasses, weeds, hay, leaves, twigs, and even pieces of tree bark.

Can you imagine eating tough, chewy twigs and bark all day? Eating these types of vegetation daily constantly wears on their teeth. Fortunately, rabbits’ teeth have another unique feature that prevents them from needing dentures.

A rabbit’s teeth have open roots that enable them to grow constantly over the course of its life. In fact, most rabbits’ teeth grow between three to five inches each year. Since their teeth never stop growing, it’s a good thing that rabbits eat the tough foods that they do.

While helpful for rabbits in the wild, constantly-growing teeth can be a problem for pet rabbits kept in captivity. Most pet rabbits are fed pellets, which do not wear down the teeth like natural vegetation does. That’s why rabbit owners must supplement pellets with fresh timothy hay, as well as wooden chew toys, to help their pets wear down their ever-growing teeth.

Content for this question contributed by Chris Valiquette, resident of Walnut, Los Angeles County, California, USA