Coyote Teeth: Dental Formula & Facts [Explained]

Photo: A. Viduetsky / Shutterstock

Coyotes are one of the most common types of wild dogs in North and Central America. 

They share characteristics with wolves and domestic dogs alike and have similar skulls to all other members in the Canidae family. This includes sharp and strong teeth. 

Adult coyotes have 42 teeth and a dental formula of for the upper jaw. This means they have three incisor teeth, one canine, four premolars, and two molars on each side of the maxilla. The lower jaw has a dental formula. The canines are about 1.45 inches long, with most coyotes getting their permanent dentition at about five months old. 

The table below includes a quick list of coyote teeth facts*: 

Hemimaxilla dental formula (I.C.PM.M)
Hemijaw dental formula (I.C.PM.M) or
Total number of teeth42 to 44
Canine teeth length 1.45 inches
Milk teeth eruptionApprox. 2 weeks 
Permanent dentition eruption4 to 5 months
Bite force727 PSI

*Data in the table above was sourced from research papers, scientific publications, and other official sources cited throughout the article.

Coyote Jaw Morphology And Dental Formula

Coyotes, Canis latrans in their scientific name, are members of the Canidae family. This family also includes wolves, foxes, dingoes, and domestic dogs, and all its members have a similar jaw morphology and dental formula. 

While all canids are considered omnivores, they live mainly on flesh. Thus, a characteristic of coyotes – and other members of the family – is the long and narrow muzzle and well-developed jaws. 

The teeth are also shaped for easy tearing through flesh. This characteristic is important for both killing prey and ripping meat off bones. 

Their dental formula is slightly different between the upper and lower jaw. 

Coyotes have 20 teeth on their maxilla, with a dental formula of 3/3 incisors, 1/1 canines, 4/4 premolars, and 2/2 molars. 

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The lower jaw has an almost identical dental formula, the only exception being that coyotes have three molars on the lower jaw.

In addition to this extra molar that is specific to all coyotes, some individuals also present a fourth lower molar that is believed to be a result of individual variation, and that is generally smaller in size compared to the other three molars.

How Many Teeth Do Coyotes Have? 

A typical coyote has 42 teeth, 20 on the upper jaw and 22 on the lower jaw. 

Yet, some coyotes have four molars on the lower jaw. These individuals have 44 teeth rather than 42. 

According to research, the occurrence of the fourth molar interests under 3% of the coyote population. The same anomaly is also present in other canid species, including wolves and foxes. 

Coyote Teeth Size 

Like most carnivores, coyotes have large canine teeth, which are used to pierce through skin and flesh and tear them off bones. 

Specifically, adult coyotes have canines that are about 1.24 to 1.45 inches in length. The premolars and molars are also relatively large compared to other species. 

A peculiarity about coyotes’ premolar and molar teeth is that the fourth premolar on the upper jaw and the first molar on the lower jaw present a carnassial modification; they are sharper than the other molars and premolars, enabling coyotes to shear the flesh. 

All other premolars and molars have a squarer shape and are used for crushing and chewing food, including bones.

Milk Teeth Eruption And Permanent Dentition 

Coyote pups have the same dental formula as their adult parents. However, much like humans and many other mammals, pups grow a set of milk teeth first. 

These deciduous teeth erupt at about two weeks and are fully grown by the time a pup celebrates its first month of age.

 At about this age, coyote pups are generally weaned, and they start eating solid foods – initially regurgitated for them by their parents.  

Permanent dentition starts to emerge at about four to five months of age, and most pups will have their milk teeth replaced by permanent ones by the time they reach six months of age. 

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This enables researchers to determine the age of coyote pups based on the type of teeth they have.

Coyote Bite Strength 

As mentioned above, coyotes have jaws and teeth developed for killing prey and shearing flesh. Killing prey, however, requires a strong bite. 

Compared to other carnivores, coyotes have a medium-strength bite. 

Their bite force quotient varies between 88 and 94, depending on the source. 

One study comparing the bite forces of canids assigned coyotes a bite force quotient of 94. 

This is about the same BFQ as jackals, in-between gray foxes and wolves.

A separate study comparing the bite forces of big biting mammals assigned coyotes a BFQ of 88. 

The same study calculated the bite forces of brown bears and black bears and assigned them lower bite force quotients. 

Considering the BFQ of most species, but also the fact that the body mass is involved in the calculation, it results that coyotes have a bite force of about 727 PSI. 

That’s actually higher than the bite force of lions but lower than the actual bite force of grizzly bears and other North American predators, including mountain lions.

Can A Coyote’s Teeth Determine Its Age?

Determining the age of coyote pups based on their teeth is easy, but what about adults? As it turns out, researchers can determine a coyote’s age based on its teeth. 

There are various ways to do this, but one of the most popular methods is counting the annuli found in the tooth cementum. 

This method is one of the most reliable since the first ring forms around the time the coyote reaches 20 months of age. After that, a new ring is formed each year. 

However, even if this method is accurate, it is mostly employed for determining the age of coyotes killed during hunts or by other animals. 

That’s because the cementum is found closer to the tooth’s core and requires the extraction of the tooth – something that would prove to be inhumane in a living coyote.

New but not yet established methods propose to determine the age of coyotes based on tooth wear. 

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Apparently, root thickness and crown length differ based on age, and there was also observed gum recession in older coyotes. 

How To Identify Coyote Teeth Marks?

Coyotes have a similar dentition to wolves, dogs, and other canids. Identifying the bite marks correctly is crucial to tell whether an animal was killed by a coyote or another canid.

The easiest way to identify a coyote bite is by measuring the distance between the teeth marks left by the canines as they pierced through the skin and flesh.

Coyotes generally inflict wounds in the neck region. The normal spacing between the upper canines is 1.125 to 1.375 inches, and the punctures have a diameter of about 1/8 of an inch. 

Coyote Vs. Wolf Vs. Fox Vs. Dog Teeth 

In North and Central America, the most common wild canid species that go after livestock and pets are coyotes, wolves, and red foxes. However, domestic dogs can also kill livestock and poultry, as well as cats and other smaller pets. 

Since all these species have similar dental formulas and jaw shapes, you might wonder how to tell them apart. 

As mentioned, the easiest way is by measuring the distance between the punctures. 

The table below shows the difference between canine teeth spacing and diameter: 

Canidae speciesCanine teeth spacingCanine teeth diameter
Coyote1.125 to 1.375 inches⅛ inch
Wolf 1.5 to 1.75 inches¼ inch
Red fox0.7 to 1 inch < ⅛ inch
Domestic dog (large to giant breed)1.85 to 2.57> ¼ inch


Coyotes’ teeth are similar to those of other members of the Canidae family. All species in this family have the same dental formula and 42 teeth normally. 

However, a fourth set of molars on the lower jaw can sometimes change the dental formula and bring the total teeth number to 44 in some coyotes.

Despite this fact, you can use the canine tooth size, diameter, and intercanine spacing to tell which species is messing with your pets or livestock, or which wild dog killed a wild animal.

Read More About Coyotes:

  1. 14 Amazing Types of Coyotes
  2. Coyote Vs. Pitbull
  3. Coyote Vs. Jackal
  4. Coyote Vs. Hyena
  5. Coyote Vs. Red Wolf

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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