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Did You Know (DYK) - Llamas Have Fighting Teeth?

Because llamas are herbivores, which means they eat exclusively plant materials such as grass, hay, shrubs - their teeth are mainly designed for crushing, grinding, and juicing their food. They do not feed on meat and other tough materials like nuts or shells. 

Llamas use their teeth the same way goats, cows, camels and sheep do. They cut grass from the ground using their sharp-edged incisors and dental pad, tear them, and push them towards the cheek teeth or the grinding teeth to further be chewed. Llamas are not true ruminants but are “pseudo ruminants” even though they have a similar digestive system as that of ruminants. Like ruminants, llamas are often spotted chewing because they regurgitate their food and chew it repeatedly before digesting.

Llamas and alpacas are camelids, and camelids do not have front teeth in their upper jaws. This is why when you take a closer look at a chewing llama, you will notice that only its lower jaw has visible teeth. In place of the upper front teeth is a toothless, rubbery plate or dental pad that aids them in chewing. 

Llamas have three pairs of incisors or front teeth located only at their bottom jaw. Followed by these incisors are one to two pairs of premolars, and three pairs of molars collectively called “cheek teeth”. They are located both at the top and bottom mandible. 

What makes a llama’s dental structure unique is a set of fighting teeth that looks like fangs, composed of modified canines and incisors. Intact male llamas possess two pairs of fighting teeth on their upper jaw and one pair at the lower jaw. (See photo above by Alpaca Dental Services.)

To prevent injury to other llamas, a male llama's fighting teeth need to be trimmed. The video below by Wilderness Rigde Trail Llamas demostrates how to do this.