Jaws And Teeth

My first impression upon seeing a coyote skull was of how small in size it was. I’m used to seeing coyotes in real life: the skull appeared so much smaller than life. Coyotes are known for their long snouts. The palate length/width ratio for a coyote is more than 2; whereas that for wolves and dogs is less than 2.  The entire jaw length is 5.5 inches; the line of teeth is just under 4 inches. Of particular interest is the very narrow lower jaw.

Like dogs, coyotes have four canine teeth, two upper and two lower, for grabbing and holding prey. These canine teeth are not as sharp as those of a cat. The premolars — teeth behind the canine teeth — are used for tearing chunks of meat from larger prey. Coyotes also have molars for chewing, but these teeth don’t get much use except in crunching bones or eating hard objects such as nuts. Coyotes are very versatile in their eating habits: consuming fruits and insects, as well as carrion and rodents.

How sensitive is a coyote’s mouth, and how finely can a coyote manipulate its teeth?  I’ve seen a coyote dismember a cricket before eating it, and I’ve seen a coyote remove a thorn from its paw: things most dogs cannot do. I’ve seen a coyote pick a tick off of another coyote’s back. So a coyote’s control of its mouth is VERY fine.  My own dog’s very uncanny ability to finely manipulate with her teeth may be indicative of a coyote’s ability to do so.  My little dog had an instinct for what was healthy and what was not. Cinder did not like the bandaid on my finger — I’m sure she could sense the small wound underneath which needed only air to heal. As I sat with her she caringly began to take the bandaid off of me. I let her do it and watched. The gentleness and precision involved were absolutely astonishing — she barely touched the finger itself at all. The reason I allowed her to do this was because of a previous incident involving her own health.

Cinder was born with fragile coronoid processes which broke and got into her elbow joint. The bone chips had to be removed. The operation involved an incision down the front part of a foreleg. And she had 11 stitches. The amazing thing is that four days before the stitches were to come out, she took her health into her own hands. Stitches left in too long can become infected. She may have sensed infection beginning or maybe she sensed that they were no longer needed. I saw her take out her own stitches, one at a time, ever so gently so as not to hurt anything else. Using her teeth, she actually unknotted a few of the stitches, and she cut through the rest. Once she began this, I allowed her to continue because it was obvious that she knew what she was doing. I trusted her innate knowledge, even more so as I continued to watch. The doctor’s timeline for the same stitch removal was only four days away. This story is to show how extremely finely specific dogs can manipulate their teeth and mouths. For a coyote, the control would be even more precise.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sonnie Rose
    Aug 28, 2011 @ 02:46:46

    I actually have a question regarding my pup Kymo . He is a mixed breed of Lab -Husky and coyote . His Dad is black lab, his mom is Husky-coy mix. What I am wondering is, how do I tell if he has coyote teeth like his mommy or regular dog teeth?, would my vet be able to tell me? Concerns me if he has the coyote teeth considering how sharp and dangerous they can be if he ever got into trouble with another dog. He is a wonderful animal, just gorgeous, very very smart, quick to learn things. Kymo looks lab, but now his coat is changing, seems to be getting his moms brindle colors. He is very well natured, very excited with tons of energy. I have looked at pictures on the internet, but I guess with him being only 4 months old soon, his teeth may change (baby teeth to adult teeth). I find that he has a very strong jaw, chews stuff extremely easy. Goes through chew sticks and rawhide bones very easy lol and fast. I would appreciate any info, or a site I can look at to compare the two, ( dog teeth vs coyote teeth) Thank you for your time ;o) Sonnie & Kymo


  2. Mary
    Aug 28, 2011 @ 21:39:38

    Hi Kymo,

    Dogs have inherited their dental “equipment,” from their wild ancestors, the wolf. Dog teeth are similar to the wolf’s smaller cousin, the coyote.

    The normal compliment of teeth in a dog’s jaw is 42:
    2 canines, 6 incisors, 4 premolars in the top jaw, and 6 premolars in the lower jaw.

    The only perceptible difference, if your dog has inherited more coyote genes, is that the teeth will be proportionately larger than that of a husky, or lab, and the muscles that attach the bottom jaw will be stronger for gripping prey.

    Husky’s have a very high prey drive, as with coyotes. I would make sure your dog is well socialized to be around other dogs, around small pets i.e. dogs, cats, and small children. This is a good time to start when your dog is still young. If your dog chases small critters outside, or takes an unusual interest in your pet cat…etc. – the correction for this behavior must be IMMEDIATE, SEVERE and MEMORABLE.

    The only time to harshly punish a dog during it’s training (and everyday) is when it exhibits PREDATORY behavior. Otherwise, training is always done on a reward system with lots of love.

    I have two very large pit bull terriers, that live in harmony with a chihuahua, jack russell terrier and 4 cats. They do not chase critters outside, and they are great with children – their education started early.

    Also remember to never leave the dog alone in the same room with children, and other small pets for extended periods of time. Simply, exercise good judgment, and I guarantee you will have a wonderful pet.


  3. alyssa
    May 09, 2013 @ 22:09:19

    hey! its me alyssa again! wanted to tell ya guys last night I had a coyote inconter! I heard a howl and went onto the porch to see what it was. it stood on the porch. I ran inside and did not want to come outside this morning! peace out guys!


  4. alyssa
    May 11, 2013 @ 14:44:10

    Sup! New story! I was doing research on coyotes, and someone blogged that they were walking in Yellowstone Park and then he saw a coyote pack. 2 coyotes came right at him, and he bolted! The coyotes stopped chasing him and he looked back. He saw 4 coyote pups. He showed a picture of the pups and they looked like dog puppies! They were so stinking cute! Just wanted to tell ‘ya guys! BBBBYYYYEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    • yipps
      May 11, 2013 @ 18:19:20

      Hi Alyssa —

      Thanks for writing! I love hearing about your experiences with coyotes! It’s pretty awesome that you had one on your porch. You should know that it was there only because no people were around. It would not have been there if it had seen you on the porch! Coyotes don’t like to be around people and avoid them.

      As for what you read on the blog about the fellow in Yellowstone, yes, coyotes, like humans, will keep threats away from their offspring. That is what the adult coyote was doing. The fellow was lucky to have seen coyote pups. I hope he was ecstatic about that, and not freaked out at the adult defending its pups! Janet

  5. Charles Wood
    May 12, 2013 @ 23:23:56

    Hi Alyssa – Thank you for your stories.

    You may also enjoy the live video feed of red-tailed hawk nest with baby chicks at Cornell Lab Bird Cam here: http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/16/Red-tailed_Hawks/

    Charles Wood


    • yipps
      May 12, 2013 @ 23:47:57

      Hi Charles —

      This is really neat! I suppose it’s a live recording: mom was not feeding when I watched it. I took stills af a Red Tailed Hawk raising its clutch of three chicks on urbanwildness.com — from the beginning to when the chicks fledged. But the live show is much more impressive! Thank you for the link! Janet

  6. Summer
    Nov 06, 2014 @ 04:38:46

    Hi! Which animal’s teeth are sharper, a dog’s or a coyote’s?


    • yipps
      Nov 06, 2014 @ 06:02:17

      I don’t know which are sharper. I would suppose that each has teeth as sharp as they need to be to survive. Not about teeth, but related: Did you know that coyote skulls show that they are more related to foxes and that dogs are more related to wolves? You are much more likely to be bitten by a dog than a coyote: over 1000 people go to emergency rooms every single day due to dog bites, whereas coyote bites or scratches amount to less than 25 a year for all of North American, almost all of them related to feeding coyotes or to interfering in an altercation between a dog and a coyote. Coyotes have been known to kill small dogs; dogs are known to have killed coyotes.

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