Teeth are pretty important in the animal world. Animals rely on their teeth for survival, whether they are hunting prey, chowing down on plants, or using their teeth for defense.
Some animals have teeth that are huge. For example, the African elephant’s tusks are modified teeth that grow up to 6 feet long- that’s longer than the average human is tall!
So, what are some animals with the biggest teeth?
Land animals with the biggest and longest teeth include elephants, clouded leopards, musk deer, hyenas, rodents, large primates, and big cats. Marine animals with the largest and longest teeth include narwhals, viperfish, payara fish, saltwater crocodiles, and great white sharks. Big-toothed extinct animals include the T-rex, sabertooth tiger, and megalodon. This isn’t even the full list!
Below, we’ll take a look at land and marine animals with the largest, and longest teeth, both living and extinct.
Land Animals With the Longest Teeth
While tusked animals are known for their lengthy teeth, they aren’t the only critters in the animal kingdom that have long teeth. Many carnivores also make this list because they have long, sharp teeth suited to a carnivore’s diet.
While these animals also have large teeth, we’re going to focus on length here and include the other big-toothed animals later.
Elephants are the clear winner for living animals with the longest teeth. Their tusks are modified incisor teeth that are deeply rooted in their massive heads and they can grow to be up to 6 feet long.
Elephant tusks are also very valuable and sadly, an estimated 20,000 elephants are killed by poachers every year when their tusks are removed for ivory. Tusks are used for digging, foraging for food, and even fighting among males. They also protect the elephant’s trunk- an extension of its mouth that is also necessary for survival.
African savannah elephants have the longest teeth and they curve upward and outward as they grow. While the straight tusks of forest elephants are smaller, they still grow up to 4′ 11″ long.
An elephant’s tusks or teeth never stop growing. If they did, their teeth would be worn down from use. This includes their tusks as well as their molars, which are pretty essential for chewing roughage and vegetation.
Elephants also have an additional 24 teeth in their mouth that they use for chewing (these are constantly replaced throughout an elephant’s life and the average elephant goes through about 150 teeth!). They have a long lifespan of 70-80 years in the wild, but tooth loss is the leading cause of death at that age once all the replacement teeth are used up.
Warthogs and Babirusas
Warthogs and babirusas are both wild pigs known for their long incisors that protrude out of their mouth from their upper and lower jaw. The tusks of warthogs are a little straighter, so they can grow up to 24 inches long when they aren’t being maintained.
That being said, the average warthog has tusks that are 6 inches long. Their lower incisors grind against the upper set of tusks every time the warthog closes its jaw, which keeps them razor sharp.
Babirusa tusks usually get about 12 inches long. The animal has to constantly grind its tusks against hard surfaces to maintain them. Otherwise, they can grow back into the babirusa’s head because of the way that they curve backward.
Bornean Clouded Leopards
Surprisingly, though it’s small, it is the Bornean clouded leopard that has the biggest teeth among the big cats living in the world today when you consider the size of their teeth relative to the size of their body. These leopards were observed earlier, but they were officially named in the scientific community in 2007.
Despite being only 55 pounds, Bornean clouded leopards have massive teeth that are 2″ long and hang out of the leopard’s mouth similar to the way teeth stick out of a sabertooth tiger’s mouth.
To put this in perspective, tigers also have canine teeth that are about 2″ long- but they are almost 10 times the size as the Bornean clouded leopard!
Hyenas deserve a mention because they have some of the longest teeth of mammals at birth. Many mammals have milk teeth at infancy- otherwise, they’d hurt their mothers when feeding. Hyenas, by contrast, are born with incisors that are 4 mm long and canine teeth that are up to 7 mm long.
In hyena groups where food is scarce, infant hyenas may even fight to the death because they have the teeth and jaw strength to do so. Even as an adult, however, hyenas have powerful jaws and teeth.
Despite being smaller than lions, hyenas have a stronger bite force. Their canine teeth are about 1.5 inches long and the rest of their teeth are also quite big and have a conical shape that makes them strong enough to crush bone!
Deer are known herbivores, so it might be a bit of a shock to see the fangs on musk deer for people who have never seen them. Musk deer are also appropriately nicknamed vampire deer, likely because of the two fang-like teeth that stick out of a male musk deer’s mouth. They grow up to 4 inches long!
It is only males and not females that have fangs. They often use them to fight other males during mating season. Musk deer also do not have antlers, so the size of their canines may also make them more attractive to potential mates.
Squirrels, Beavers, and Other Rodents
Like the tusked mammals, we’ve mentioned so far, the teeth of rodents also never stop growing. Rodents like mice, rats, hamsters, and gerbils are notorious chewers, and critters like squirrels, groundhogs, and beavers all use their teeth to gnaw on hard surfaces like nuts and bark in the wild.
While the front teeth of rodents may not look that long at first glance, it’s usually pretty noticeable that they stick out of the animal’s mouth. Rodent teeth actually grow pretty fast. Otherwise, they would be rubbed down to ineffective nubs from all the hard things they chew on. Squirrel teeth, for example, grow 5 1/2 inches every year.
That being said, while rodents do have pretty long teeth, they can usually be kept in check by the foods they eat and the things they chew through in their environment.
This is why it’s important for people who keep rodents as pets to be sure they have something to chew on to keep their teeth at a healthy length. When rodent teeth get too long, it results in dental problems, malnutrition, and even starvation because of the difficulty eating once teeth are unruly.
Marine Animals With the Longest Teeth
Now that we have big-toothed animals on the land out of the way, let’s get into the marine animals with the longest teeth. Keep in mind that the focus here is going to be long teeth, we’ll get to those teeth that are just big in the next section.
Narwhals are often called the “unicorn of the sea” because of the ultra-long tusk that grows out of their head. This tusk, like the tusks of other mammals, is actually a tooth!
Narwhals are actually a type of toothed whale and it’s only the males who have horns- but their tusk is their only tooth. Even though it was once believed that male narwhals would use their tusks for fighting, they’ve been observed rubbing horns together to clean them in the wild.
Instead, researchers now believe the narwhal uses its tooth for quite a different purpose- sensing changes in its environment. This might include detecting changes in temperature and level of salt, as well as helping the narwhal sense when prey is near.
Narwhals are native to Arctic waters and can be as big as 2,100 pounds, so it’s no surprise that their massive tusks can get up to 9 feet long.
Unlike the tusks of land mammals, however, the narwhal tusk is actually a little flexible and can bend up to 1 foot in either direction. This is likely beneficial to them since they are one of the deepest diving mammals and dive to depths of more than 2,600 feet, a feat that many animals cannot do because of the intense pressure.
Like other tusked mammals, a walrus’s tusk is actually an extension of its teeth. Male tusks grow longer and are straighter than those of female walruses. Walrus tusks grow for 15 years of the animals’ lives, with male tusks growing up to 39 inches in males and 31.5 inches in females.
For walruses, their tusks are a pretty important adaptation for living in the Arctic. Their tusks hang from the top of their mouth and they can sink them into the ice, which helps them pull their large, heavy bodies out of the water.
While the teeth of viperfish are small when it comes to their actual length, which is around 1 foot, viperfish teeth are huge in comparison to the size of the fish’s head. In fact, their teeth are so large that a viperfish has to open its hinged jaws completely to swallow prey.
When a viperfish has prey trapped in its large mouth, it can’t escape because of the needle-like teeth that form a cage around its mouth. Their largest fangs are about a little more than half the size of the viperfish’s head and stick out of its mouth because it would be impossible for the viperfish to close its mouth without hurting itself.
In fact, when it comes to having the biggest teeth compared to the size of an animal’s head, viperfish are currently the clear winner. The Sloane’s Viperfish holds the Guinness World Record for largest teeth relative to head size.
At first glance, the fangtooth fish looks a little like the viperfish. Also, like the viperfish, the fangtooth fish is small in size- but has massive teeth that stick out of its mouth.
The fangtooth fish is even smaller than the viperfish, being about six inches long. It also differs because they have an evolutionary feature that lets them tuck their teeth away when they aren’t being used. They slide into pockets inside the fangtooth fish’s mouth, which are located on either side of the brain.
The fangtooth fish needs these large teeth to prey on animals like squid and other small fish. Because their eyesight is so bad though, particularly at the depths around 16,000 feet that fangtooth fish hang in, they tend to eat only when they bump into prey- a process known as chemoreception.
The payara fish is also sometimes called the vampire fish or vampire piranha. It’s a pretty formidable fish that lives in the Amazon and it has a mouthful of sharp teeth that it uses to tear into all sorts of prey- even red and black piranhas!
Payara fish kill their prey using long fangs that stick out of their mouth from the bottom. They grow to an impressive 6 inches long and vampire fish use them to impale other fish after lunging at them.
Payara grow up to 4 feet long and are known for killing fish up to half their size and then eating them with their razor-sharp teeth. Their fangs tuck into nasal pouches when their mouth is closed, which stops them from injuring the fish.
Crocodiles are technically an animal of the land and the sea, but they belong on this list because of their big, toothy grin. While alligators are also known for their ferocious bite, it’s crocodiles that make the list because their teeth are significantly bigger.
Male saltwater crocodiles are often double the size of females and the largest ones get up to 23 feet in length. Their biggest teeth are an impressive five inches long and crocodiles have a mouthful of 66 teeth.
Something else you’ll notice is that crocodiles have teeth that stick out of their mouths, whereas alligators have sockets for their teeth and they stay in their mouths. Their sharp teeth and jaw strength make crocodiles more dangerous, too- they have one of the strongest bites in the animal kingdom!
Great White Sharks
Great white sharks are almost 4 feet long at birth, so it’s no surprise that these animals grow to the size they do. Females are larger than males and when fully grown, they can be as long as 20 feet and weigh up to 6,600 pounds.
When it comes to teeth, the average great white shark tooth is about 6 1/2 inches long. They also have a mouthful, with 23-28 teeth in their lower jaw and 20-26 teeth in their upper jaw.
Great whites their multiple sets of teeth, especially since they’re known for making a meal out of marine animals of all sizes, including seals, sea lions, marine turtles, fish, and even other sharks!
Land Animals With the Biggest Teeth
Now, we’ll get into land animals with the largest teeth. While there will obviously be some overlap between animals with the longest teeth and animals with the biggest teeth, the focus here will be on animals with big teeth and I won’t repeat any to keep it from sounding redundant.
While an elephant’s tusks are a lot longer than a hippo’s, hippopotamuses have a mouth full of long teeth. In fact, tusks aside, the hippopotamus may have the biggest teeth of any land mammal. They are long, wide, and dangerous!
In fact, when you pair a hippo’s sharp teeth and moody temperament that they’re known for with their sheer size, it makes sense that they are the most dangerous mammal in Africa and kill more people than animals like lions or sharks do every year.
The teeth of hippos grow constantly and their canines, which are the biggest teeth in a hippo’s mouth, can grow to be 18-20 inches long. Even their incisors are massive, growing to an average of 14 inches long.
Male hippos have been observed using their canines for fighting in the wild and the dense vegetation they prefer to eat keeps these teeth sharp. This is especially true when you consider that they are one of the hungriest animals and are constantly eating.
Hippos have four canine teeth, including the two large canines that grow out of their jaw. They also have an additional 8 incisors, plus more teeth in the back of their mouths.
The canines and incisors are used for pulling, tearing, and fighting, while the back teeth are used for chewing vegetation. Despite being known as a deadly animal, hippos actually prefer to eat vegetation and have three stomachs that help them digest their food.
Horses and Zebras
Horses and zebras share a lot of traits belonging to the Equidae family. In addition to both being grazing animals that gallop at high speeds, they also have big teeth.
Horses have two types of teeth, big incisors in the front of their mouths and smaller (but still big) grinding teeth in the back of their mouth. This lets them eat the tough foods like hay that make up their diet.
By the time horses reach young adulthood, their teeth are between 4 1/2 and 5 inches long. Their teeth are long and extend deep into the jawbone. Usually, horse teeth grow at a rate of 1/8 inch per year to keep up with the wear and tear from the foods they eat.
The largest species of zebras, Grevy’s zebras, have the largest teeth. Zebras have 40-42 teeth that never stop growing, which is essential because of how fibrous the foods are that they eat. Like horses, they have big, long incisors better suited to chopping and pulling as well as rear teeth for grinding food.
The big, strong teeth of the zebra have an advantage over other grazing animals in Africa, too. Zebras chew down the more fibrous tops of grasses and other vegetation, exposing the softer parts that other grazing animals have an easier time chewing and digesting.
Camels have huge teeth that they use for chewing cud. Their teeth are strong enough to break down the vegetation they eat and are also strong enough to be used as weapons when necessary.
Since camels have 34 teeth that cover the insides of their mouth, including cheek teeth, they can’t be fit with a bridle like horses. This is the reason domesticated camels are fitted with a nose peg. The nose peg goes through their nose like a piercing.
Camels only have two sets of teeth, like humans do, so it’s not uncommon for them to have trouble eating by the time they reach the end of their lives.
That being said, they do have a lot of cool evolutionary features that help them survive in the desert. Their humps are filled with fat for nutrition on long treks through the desert and they have a third eyelid that keeps sand out of their eye by letting them see with their eyes closed!
There are several large primates that deserve a mention for their big canine teeth. This includes mandrills, gorillas, and baboons. Even though some primates are shorter than humans, their teeth are bigger because of their diet. Some gorillas and orangutans can even reach six feet standing up, but you’ll still see the differences is in their teeth.
Primates eat a varied diet that includes everything from fruits and other plant life to insects and even small animals. Their varied diet is likely the reason that they need different kinds of teeth.
Mandrills only stand about 2-3 feet tall, but their large canine teeth grow up to 2.5 inches long. While they use their canines for self-defense when threatened, showing their teeth is more often used as a greeting among mandrills. It’s meant to be friendly- even though it might look threatening to the typical human eye!
Gorillas have 32 teeth, the same number of teeth as humans. In addition to their incisors and canines at the front of the mouth, they also have premolars and molars. Canine teeth are shorter in females, but can grow up to 2 inches long in males!
Baboons are another example of a primate with big teeth. Even though they are smaller than gorillas, they still have canine teeth that grow up to 2 inches long. For baboons (and other primates), scientists also believe that canine teeth may play a role in dominance displays and mating.
Primates with longer canines are thought to be genetically superior and also better suited for fighting, so they’re more likely to mate and pass on this genetic trait. This makes sense because many primates prefer a vegetarian diet, so they don’t need their canines for tearing into food.
Lions, Tigers, and Other Big Cats
Lions, tigers, and other big cats are carnivores. They have a mouth full of big, strong teeth because of their diet. To eat, they need to be able to tear through the thick hides of animals like zebras, gazelles, and countless others that they prey on to get to the flesh underneath.
Even though these big cats have a mouthful of teeth, like with other mammals, the canine teeth are the longest. Lions have massive canine teeth that get up to 10 cm, or almost 4 inches long.
Tigers also deserve an honorable mention when it comes to big cats with big teeth. Their canines can grow as long as three inches.
While all bears have pretty massive teeth, polar bears have the largest because of their size. The largest discovered polar bear was almost 12 feet long and weighed more than 2,000 pounds, however, they usually don’t grow quite to this size. Even so, an average polar bear may weigh anywhere from 700-1,200 pounds and be 9.8 feet long.
Polar bears are voracious carnivores known for eating seals in the Arctic. They rely on their ability to camouflage in the Arctic to be stealthy while hunting prey and use their large, sharp teeth to tear through thick blubber and get to the flesh underneath. Polar bear canine teeth can be about 2 inches long.
Marine Animals With the Largest Teeth
As I mentioned earlier, these animals with the biggest teeth might also have long teeth, but the focus here will be on width and overall size rather than just how long the tooth is. I’ll also avoid repeating any marine animals that have already been mentioned.
While sperm whales aren’t the most enormous known whale, they do have the biggest whale teeth. Unlike the blue whale, which is much larger but has baleen plates instead of teeth, sperm whales have true teeth. And, a single tooth can weigh as much as 2.2 pounds!
Sperm whales are long and known for their big jaws, which make up 20-25% of the animal’s total body length. One of the biggest jaws of a sperm whale ever discovered can be found in Nantucket Museum- and the jaw alone is 18 feet long!
The large jaws of the sperm whale are essential for holding all of its teeth. Each whale has about 20-26 banana-shaped teeth. In addition to weighing more than 2 pounds, each tooth is about 8 inches long and designed to fit into the sockets found in the upper part of the sperm whale’s jaw.
Elephant seals are another massive animal with really long teeth. They grow up to 15 feet long, weigh 6,000 pounds, and have teeth that are six inches long below the surface.
At first glance, you may not notice an elephant seal’s large teeth. Even though they are 6 inches long in total, only about 1 inch of their teeth stick out of their gumline, with their canine teeth being the largest.
Despite having large teeth, elephant seals actually don’t use them for chewing. Instead, they’re known for swallowing prey whole.
Moray eels are another critter that has teeth so big they stick out of their mouth when it’s closed. Their teeth are clear and glass-like, plus incredibly sharp. While these teeth are only about an inch long, they are really long compared to the size of the moray eel and its mouth.
Plus, the moray eel has a whole mouthful of teeth, and that makes them a dangerous predator. Their teeth also curve back toward their throat, so once a cephalopod, fish, or crustacean ends up in a moray eel’s mouth, there’s little hope for swimming back out.
As you’d expect from its name, the goliath tigerfish is pretty massive. It is commonly hunted for sport and it’s not uncommon for the tigerfish to grow to more than three feet long and weigh more than 100 pounds.
The tigerfish has teeth that are almost an inch long each and fairly wide. They are spaced through the jaw in a way that they interlock with each other when the tigerfish has its mouth closed. This is important since without that feature, the tigerfish likely wouldn’t be able to close its mouth.
Tigerfish are carnivores known for preying on smaller fish found in South African waters. With their large size (and enormous teeth), they are known to eat gobies, carp, catfish, and other fish.
Extinct Animals With the Biggest Teeth
Some animals had massive ancestors. There was even a rhinoceros discovered in China that was as tall as a modern-day giraffe!
With that in mind, there are many extinct animals with massive teeth that deserve a mention. Let’s take a look.
Behemoth elephants were the straight-tusked ancestor to the elephants that roam Africa and Asia today. They lived during the Pleistocene era and were even more massive than elephants today, even though the average African elephant grows to an average of 8.2-13 feet tall.
From what they know by studying fossils, scientists estimate that they stood about 15 feet tall. This means they were so big that they could likely rest their chin on the back of a modern-day elephant. (Researchers have also found fossils of smaller elephant species- some only the size of Shetland ponies when they were fully grown!)
So, how big were the ancient elephant’s teeth? A well-preserved behemoth elephant tusk was uncovered in the Nufud Desert of Saudi Arabia in 2014. It was an incredible 8.2 feet long!
Mammoths and Mastodons
Mammoths and mastodons both were known for their massive teeth. In fact, it’s the Columbian mammoth that holds the Guinness World Record for the longest mammoth tusk. The specimen was discovered in 1934 and the total tusk was 16 feet long!
Mammoths walked the earth during the Ice Age and they also have the largest known grinding teeth of any species. Their massive molars are 15cm (that’s just under 6 inches) across.
Mastodons are genetically related to mammoths and their tusks are straight instead of curved. The longest mastodon tusk was discovered in the 1980s and it was also 16 feet long!
Their molars were also large, though they were shaped differently than those of mammoths. A mastodon’s teeth are more conical, likely because they were better suited to crushing twigs instead of grinding plant matter.
In the dinosaur world, the Tyrannosaurus rex is thought to have the longest teeth. The T-rex was a well-known carnivore with small arms that likely weren’t very useful for much at all, so it relied on its sharp teeth.
There were an estimated 50-60 teeth in the jaw of the tyrannosaurus rex and to house these teeth, it’s estimated their mouths were about 4 feet long. The longest T-rex tooth ever discovered was 12 inches long!
In the front of the T-rex’s mouth, teeth grew closer together. Paleontologists believe this was likely because they used those teeth for tasks like tearing and pulling, which they couldn’t necessarily use their short arms for.
By contrast, it’s believed the teeth on the side of the Tyrannosaurus rex’s mouth were better suited for ripping and tearing flesh. T-rex teeth have serrations on the like a serrated knife that make them even sharper and better suited to the T-rex’s carnivorous diet.
If you’ve ever seen a picture of a sabertooth tiger on the prowl, then you’d likely spot the impossible-to-miss canine teeth poking out of their mouth. Their canine teeth are flat and sharp, like daggers, and were believed to grow to about 7-8 inches long each.
While the sabertooth tiger looks like a big cat (and is named after a tiger), it actually was not the most graceful hunter. They don’t run very fast, so they preferred to go after larger, slower animals and ambush them instead of chasing them.
The reason the sabertooth tiger was effective as a hunter was because of its massive teeth. It uses these blades to kill and they also work as a guide, so the sabertooth could close its mouth without breaking any teeth.
Megalodons are considered the biggest fish that ever lived- at least of all the fish and fish fossils that have been discovered thus far! So, it’s no surprise that these massive relatives of the shark (which are believed to be extinct) also have a jaw full of big teeth.
One of the challenges that scientists have had with determining the size of megalodons is that sharks don’t have bones. This means there aren’t megalodon skeletons laying around anywhere, so most of what the experts know has come from studying their massive teeth.
That being said, like sharks and many other toothed carnivores, it’s believed megalodons lost their teeth as they wore down. This is pretty common for carnivores because ripping into their prey takes a toll on their teeth over time, particularly an animal like the megalodon which may have eaten up to 2,500 pounds of food every single day.
The biggest megalodon tooth ever discovered was an impressive 6.9 inches wide, which is three times as wide as the teeth of the great white shark! Megalodon teeth have been found off the coast of every continent except Antarctica and there was even a nursery full of juvenile megalodon teeth discovered between 2007 and 2009.
When you consider that the average person has teeth that are less than half an inch long, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of teeth in the animal kingdom that are considered big to us. So, what are some animals with the biggest teeth?
Some land animals with massive teeth include elephants, rodents, big cats, camels, horses, zebras, and countless others. Marine animals with long and large teeth include narwhals, payara fish, fangtooth fish, elephant seals, moray eels, and the goliath tigerfish. Extinct animals with big teeth include behemoth elephants, the T-rex, mastodons, megalodons, and the sabertooth tiger.
These animals with massive chompers also come from all walks of life, some from the land, some from the sea, and some even being extinct! Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed learning about these many animals with the biggest, longest, and largest teeth.