How often have you noticed your horse showing his teeth? If you have, you must have given it a thought as to why do horses show their teeth. But just think about it, horses have teeth; why should they restrict themselves from showing them? Coming back to our question of discussion, the flashing of teeth by your horse could happen as naturally as when eating and yawning as well as when there are underlying issues.

Baring its teeth is also a way through which your horse is trying to communicate with you, mostly when it has any discomforts or ailments. Without further ado, let’s get to the main discussion as to why do horses show their teeth.

horse showing teeth

Most Common Reasons Behind Horses Showing Their Teeth

The most common reason which has scientific evidence is the flehmen response. It simply means the reaction of horses to certain smells. This is mainly done to take the chemical scent dispersed in the air, mainly pheromones. Horses pull back their heads and curl up their upper lip, flashing those teeth while taking in the smells they want. Doing this helps them to taste the air as well, which is a bonus.

When your horse is agitated or sending warning signs, it often bares its teeth to show it. Experts in the field of horses suggest that this commonly happens around the hay pile where the agitated horse warns the others to move away from its vicinity or to accept the challenge. And this then usually ends up in a fight, mostly kicking or biting.

When your horse has a problem with its teeth or some discomfort anywhere, it often chews its tongue, which indicates that your horse isn’t in proper condition. And this is accompanied by the showing of its teeth, which is a signal for you to make an appointment with the veterinarian.

Similarly, barring their teeth while keeping their ears back is your horse’s way of informing you that he is in pain, which happens especially when you accidentally brush on its sore spots and tender areas during grooming sessions. And this is also a warning for you to back off, or else he will bite you. 

Horses Showing Their Teeth While Eating

Eating is a complex process, and showing teeth as part of eating is probably the basic of them all. And hence, it is part of the normal activities of eating that horses show their teeth. Apart from that, the slight inconveniences while eating are also expressed by the baring of teeth. This includes the situation when food gets stuck between your horse’s teeth. They get it out by flexing their lips, which you might find funny, but is a satisfying process for your horse.

Another display of teeth can be seen when your horse senses a bad taste or something that he dislikes. This is accompanied by the parting of lips and sticking their tongue out, trying to let the nasty taste out of their mouth, just like kids do when they dislike what they are eating.

Unintentional Display of Teeth by Horses

There are many instances where horses show their teeth intentionally, more often to show aggression and discomfort. Similarly, there are situations where your horse might bare its teeth with no specific intent. It is said that when your horse is happy, mostly by seeing something, he might show his teeth as if in a smile. Though it is not backed by shreds of evidence, there is no harm in seeing your horse happy, right?

You can also see your horse’s teeth when it is relaxed and stress-free. The relaxed face of your horse will have its bottom lip drooped down, hence, the display of those teeth. Another instance is when your horse is yawning, and there is ample display of its teeth.

Yet another instance is when your horse is in pain as already said above. Since they cannot express their pain vocally, displaying their teeth is their way of reaching out to you. Identifying this from other acts of showing teeth is difficult, but if you closely watch your horse and its routine, you can trace if this baring of teeth is associated with pain.

horse baring teeth

When to be Careful

Showing their teeth is natural to horses, and it has several meanings associated with it. Identifying what those indicates is important and necessary because of the fact that your horse can’t speak or has any other way of communicating its distress to you. Take extra care when you find symptoms that are unusual and persisting. Note down the diet and habits of your horse to better understand the situation. Consulting a veterinarian is always the best option to get your horse back on track.


If you were someone who always had the question as to why horses show their teeth, by now it must be pretty clear to you that there are many reasons for it. The reasons range from simple expressions out of habit to complex displays of discomfort and pain. The least you can do is observe the subtle changes that your horse shows and take action to aid your horse in distress. Taking suggestions from those who have had experience with horses will also help in this matter. Remember that for your horse, you are his world and medium through which he can communicate to the world.


  • Sameera R

    Sameera is particularly fond of farm animals and loves to write about them. Horses are her favorites and she wishes to own one someday.

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