Elk Teeth

Elk have two ivory teeth in the upper jaw of their mouth.  They are where the canine teeth would be on a dog or cat.  All the rest of their teeth are enamel.  There are two animals indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, with ivory teeth.  Walrus is the other animal.  Ivory teeth are called ivories, buglers or whistlers.  I do not know why they call them buglers or whistlers as they have nothing to do with bugling or whistling.  An elk uses their ivory teeth to threaten.  If an elk wants to intimidate you, he will snarl his upper lip up at you and show you his ivory tooth.  Then he will grind his tooth or click his tooth at you.  If he is really mad at you he will raise his head up in the air and flap his lips.  A bull’s ivory tooth is much larger than a cow’s ivory tooth.  Not only is a bull’s tooth larger, but it has two roots, where a cow’s tooth only has one root. 

 Elk have no upper front teeth.  They are like goats and cows.  They just have the ivories where the canines should be.  Way in the back of their mouth they have large molars on both the top and bottom for chewing their cud.  Elk are ruminants and have 4 stomachs. 

Elk have 8 lower front teeth.  If all 8 of the lower front teeth are adult teeth, then the elk is 2  1/2 years old or older.  If 4 or less of the lower front teeth are adult teeth, then the elk is 1 year old or less. 

Elk are not born with their ivory teeth in.  They come in at about 3 weeks of age.  I know this because I have bottle raised a calf and I carefully watched for the ivory teeth to come in. 

Ivories are hollow down the roots, until the elk is about 3 years old and then the ivory begins to  fill in.  Elk wear their ivories down grinding them.  So, the older an elk is the shorter the ivory is.  Ivories are a great way to tell age. 

1 year old or less:  will have 4 lower adult teeth or less and 4 lower milk teeth or more.  Ivories will be very small and little will be showing.

2 years old:  will have at least 4 lower adult teeth and will still have 1 to 3 milk teeth remaining.  Ivories will be large, and rounded with lots of white showing.  If the ivory is removed the root will be hollow down the inside of the tooth. 

3 years old: All lower bottom front teeth will be adult teeth.  Ivories will be large, and rounded with lots of white showing.  If the ivory is removed it will have a small amount of hollowness showing down the tooth. 

As you can see in the 1st picture, the older an elk gets the more of the ivory is worn down.  Teeth are a great way to tell the age of an elk.

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8 Responses to Elk Teeth

  1. tcgfamily says:

    I can see school kids everywhere smiling at this cool first hand info.

  2. Joy Ball says:

    Gees, Brenda, this post was dated Oct. 21! What? Have you been busy or something? LOL!

  3. yonadav zar says:

    shalom.
    i read that all teeth of all the animals are made of ivory. what’s the difference? the cover of the enamel?
    and what’s the shape of the ivory teeth? i see that they are not like canine, but are they like molars or like front teeth?
    please, foregive me for my english.

    • elkfarmer says:

      Yonadav zar, Enamel teeth are enamel all of the way through and ivory teeth are ivory all of the way through. I posted a picture of the ivories, molars and bottom front teeth. The first five teeth are ivories. They are well rounded. The last tooth is the bottom front teeth and it is enamel. The large tooth and the really small tooth are molars. The large one is from and adult elk and the small one is from a baby. They are enamel. Hope that helped.

  4. yonadav zar says:

    thank you.
    to where did you post the pictures? i didn’t get them on my mail.
    thank you, again.
    yonadav zar.

  5. Susan Little says:

    Hello, I was wondering how the elk bugle? Does the sound come from the voice box or from air blowing through the teeth? I have read both ideas. Also do both male and female elk have ivories? Do just the male elk bugle? Thank you, Susan

    • elkfarmer says:

      Susan, Thank-you for such an in depth questions. Elk have 2 tubes in their throat. One for eating and breathing like us, and a secondary one for bugling. It looks like a bugle tube that an archery hunter uses to call in an elk. Cows, calves and bulls have one. And they can all bugle. The only sound that I have heard from an elk’s ivory is a popping or grinding sound that they make when threatening. The elk get one set of ivories and they get them between 3 weeks and 3 months. All elk have them.

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