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Freak Deer: Tooth Abnormalities

Updated on November 20, 2016

Deer Teeth

In other articles I have discussed unusual examples of deer coloration and antler form, in this hub I will discuss some abnormalities that may be observed in dentition.

Canines are normal in some exotic deer species like the Chinese Water Deer cliff1066™ / Foter / CC BY

Canines ("as rare as deer teeth")

Most common American deer (like whitetail and mule deer) do not have typical canine teeth pointed canine teeth (although they do have modified canines), but examples with small maxillary canine teeth in the upper jaw only are sometimes taken.

I would estimate their overall incidence could be estimate as 1 in 150-200 animals, but others place it at more like 1:800 pr even 1:100,000.It is also likely that this trait is common in some herds and absent in others. Rue (2007) says they are more common in the southern parts of the US.

These teeth are normally small (not even piercing through the gum) and often quite loose. I think they may often go unnoticed unless that skull is stripped for taxidermy or mounted trophy purposes. You can see an example of a whitetail deer with canines that protrude from the gum here.

Also known as: fang teeth, vampire deer.

Swamp Bucks

If you see a deer mount (taxidermy deer, usually just the head) with full wolf or coyote teeth this is an example of create taxidermy referred to as a "swamp buck". They can also be created using Photoshop, such as this example by spookDD on DeviantArt.


  • Cranbtook, C. (1918). A most unusual deer head with eye teeth. The Ottawa Naturalist, Volume 32
  • Rue III, L. L. (2007). Deer Hunting Tips and Techniques. Stackpole Books.
  • Weigand, J. P. (1965). Canine Teeth in Two Nebraska Mule Deer. University of Nebraska digital commons.

Other Supernumerary Teeth

Deer sometime have other kinds of "extra" teeth. These are normally a duplicate tooth inside the position of a normal tooth.



  • Pekelharing, C. J. (1968). Molar duplication in red deer and wapiti. Journal of mammalogy, 524-526.
  • Steele, D. G., & Parama, W. D. (1979). Supernumerary teeth in moose and variations in tooth number in North American Cervidae. Journal of Mammalogy, 852-854.

Damaged Teeth

While it is normal for deer's teeth to wear with age, sometimes abnormal damage is found. This is often associated with pollution with chemicals such as fluoride.


  • Karstad, L. (1967). Fluorosis in deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 3(2), 42-46.

Missing Teeth

Deer will lose teeth due to disease and trauma.

Some wildlife scientists suggest the removal of teeth to help identify deer being studied for research. However this is rarely of ever done as it would be likely to affect the wllbeing of the deer.


Video showing older mule deer with missing teeth.


  • Miller, F. L., & Tessier, G. D. (1971). Dental anomalies in caribou, Rangifer tarandus. Journal of mammalogy, 164-174.

Dental Cancers

Deer can also have teeth with grossly abnormal appearance due to cancers such as cementoblastoma.


  • Kierdorf, Uwe, Anne Bridault, Carsten Witzel, and Horst Kierdorf. "Cementoblastoma in a red deer (Cervus elaphus) from the Late Pleistocene of Rochedane, France." International Journal of Paleopathology 8 (2015): 42-47.


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