7 frightening facts about animal fangs

Vampires and werewolves got you spooked this Halloween? You haven’t seen real fangs until you’ve come face to face with an adult hippopotamus, or felt true fear until you’ve witnessed the deadly toxic-spraying teeth of a spitting cobra. Keep reading for some genuinely frightening facts about the animal kingdom’s gnarliest gnashers.

1. Gaboon vipers fold away their terrifying teeth


Don’t even think about messing with a gaboon viper. These snakes are not only the largest and heaviest vipers in the world, they also have the largest teeth and highest venom yield of any snake. Their two inch fangs spend most of the time folded back in the roof of mouth, but flick out in a flash when it’s time to strike down on prey.

2. Baboon fangs can grow larger than a lion’s


Monkeys are cute and friendly, right? Not baboons. Males flash their menacing canines at their rivals, which grow to be as large as an adult lion’s. Females also tend to pick males with larger teeth, seeing the fangs as a sign of dominance.

3. Sharks have 15 rows of teeth

Photp by Pinosub / Shutterstock
Photp by Pinosub / Shutterstock

Because clearly a single row of shark fangs isn’t scary enough. These apex predators need their many rows of teeth because they tend to lose at least one a week, lodged into the tough scales and hides of their prey. 15 rows is the average number—some sharks only have five, but bull sharks have 50.

4. Sabre-tooth tigers often snapped their canines

Credit: Sfocato / Shutterstock
Credit: Sfocato / Shutterstock

They might be hailed as the most epic fangs in feline history, but the sabre-tooth tiger’s massive teeth were also incredibly brittle. True, they were huge—12 inches in the largest variants—but frequently broken in combat. And these cats didn’t have magic dental regeneration powers; once a canine was snapped, it wouldn’t grow back.

5. Spitting cobras spray venom from their fangs

Photo by Stuart G Porter / Shutterstock
Photo by Stuart G Porter / Shutterstock

Several species of cobra have the unnerving ability to ‘spit’ venom from their mouths. The venom is relatively harmless on a healthy mammal’s skin, but can cause permanent blindness if it enters the eye. Rather than being spat as the cobra’s name suggests, the venom is sprayed from the snake’s fangs, shot out by air expelled from the lungs.

6. Narwhal horns are actually giant teeth


Narwhals seem to have tricked people into thinking their spears are a kind of mystical horn, granting them their reputation as unicorns of the seas. Sorry to disappoint, but that mighty weapon is actually a giant canine tooth, extending freakishly out of the whale’s forehead for the purpose of breaking ice and occasionally duelling other ocean creatures.

7. Hippo teeth will make you cower in fear

Photo by konmesa / Shutterstock
Photo by konmesa / Shutterstock

It’s strange that more people aren’t scared of hippos. The mighty mammals are responsible for more deaths every year than lions, tigers, sharks and bears combined; they’re extremely aggressive, surprisingly quick and don’t think twice about attacking. Oh, and the final frightening thought? Their gargantuan bottom teeth are around 16 inches in length.