Horse owners and caretakers are familiar with using a horse's teeth to judge generally how old the equine is, but one breed in particular, the Icelandic horse, is difficult to age by conventional dental guidelines.
Drs. Jarosław Łuszczyński, Magdalena Pieszka, Weronika Petrych and Monika Stefaniuk-Szmukier noted that many times the age assessment based on teeth alone is quite wrong. While using teeth to age a horse can be helpful in some circumstances, the researchers note that it is not an exact science.
To prove this, the team used 126 Icelandic horses from one farm, aged from foals to 24-year-old horses and looked specifically at their incisors to try to determine the horse's age. The assessments were done by an experienced horse person who was quite good at determining age by the appearance of teeth; he had no formal dentistry training.
The age the inspector believed the horse to be was compared with the age noted in the horse's passport. The age the inspector thought the horse was, was incorrect 36.5 percent of the time. The estimates that were closest to the actual age were those made in horses that were under 2 years old; these horses were experiencing the eruption of deciduous incisors and the disappearance of cusps.
The researchers determined that there is frequent underestimation of age when using when using the eruption of the permanent incisors and an overestimation of age when basing the age off the disappearance of cup in Icelandic horses. They believe that this may indicate that Icelandic horses that ware 5 years old and younger have a slower rate of tooth growth than horses of other breeds.
They suggest that the patterns generally used to determine a horse's age by his teeth be modified to take into account specific horse breeds and types. The researchers suggest that the slower wearing down of Icelandic horse teeth may be a characteristic of primitive horses or influenced by diet.
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