Tooth configuration in tigers:

A tiger's jaw normally contains 30 teeth and these are primarily designed for slicing flesh.


The tiger's upper canines are the largest of all the big cats and at 2.5 to 3 inches in length are nearly the size of a man's middle finger. These teeth are used in killing and biting.


These small sharp teeth are used in grasping prey and for tearing meat from bones. They are able to cut through the tough hide of a buffalo or sambar.

Premolars and molars:

Tearing and chewing teeth. The fourth upper premolar and the first lower molar on each side are called the carnassials. These slice meat exactly like blades on a pair of scissors.


As tigers age their teeth, especially the canines, grow and develop. In the three images at the top of this page the first is quite a young cat which has under-developed canines. The second cat is somewhat older; here the canines are larger and no longer snow white, but a creamy colour. The third tiger is well into its adult years as evidenced by the prominent yellowed canines.


Cubs are born with a set of milk teeth which are gradually replaced by adult teeth; this process starts at about six months of age. The baby teeth are not pushed out in the same way as occurs with humans. The adult set forms beside the milk teeth and once they are well grown in the first teeth will fall out. This prevents an animal dependent upon its teeth for killing from ever having gaps which might prevent it feeding properly.


Age and damage may cause some teeth to be lost and this is considered a prime reason for tigers turning man-eater. Bad teeth make catching and holding prey extremely difficult.

It takes more than one or two lost teeth to turn a tiger into a man-eater.

In one case, a post-mortem examination revealed a tigress with two broken canine teeth (only about a third remained of each tooth), four missing incisors and a lose upper molar. Only once reaching this stage did she attack a workman.

 Taxonomy | Whiskers | Hearing & Ear Spots | Eyesight | Smell | Teeth | Communication | Flehman | Genetics |
Life Span | Streaking | Claws, Paws & Pug Marks | Skin & Coat | Gait | Tail | Cleanliness & Tongue |
Skeleton & Internal Organs | Big Cat/Small Cat?

Characteristics Index | Home

Photography With Thanks To The University Of Michigan Museum Of Zoology (Photos 2-3)
 © All Rights Reserved. Displayed here with permission, for educational, non-profit purposes.