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Why Did The Horse Eat With Its Mouth Open

Why Did The Horse Eat With Its Mouth Open

Have you ever wondered why horses sometimes eat with their mouths open? It’s a peculiar behavior that has puzzled many horse owners and enthusiasts. In this article, we will explore the possible reasons behind this behavior and delve into the fascinating world of equine eating habits.

The Anatomy of a Horse’s Mouth

Before we dive into the reasons behind a horse eating with its mouth open, let’s first understand the anatomy of a horse’s mouth. Horses have a unique dental structure that differs from other animals. They have a set of powerful incisors at the front of their mouth, which they use to bite off grass or hay. Behind the incisors, horses have a set of premolars and molars that grind the food into smaller particles, aiding in digestion.

Reasons for Eating with Mouth Open

There are several reasons why a horse may eat with its mouth open. Let’s explore some of the most common explanations:

1. Dental Issues

One of the primary reasons a horse may eat with its mouth open is due to dental problems. Horses’ teeth continuously grow throughout their lives, and if they develop sharp edges or uneven wear, it can cause discomfort while chewing. This discomfort may lead to the horse opening its mouth to alleviate the pain.

2. Respiratory Issues

Respiratory issues can also contribute to a horse eating with its mouth open. Horses are obligate nasal breathers, meaning they primarily breathe through their nose. If a horse has a respiratory condition such as allergies or a respiratory infection, it may find it difficult to breathe through its nose while eating. Consequently, the horse may resort to opening its mouth to facilitate breathing.

3. Temperament and Behavior

Some horses develop the habit of eating with their mouths open due to their temperament or learned behavior. Just like humans, horses can have individual quirks and preferences. Some horses may simply find it more comfortable or enjoyable to eat with their mouths open. Additionally, if a horse observes other horses in its herd eating with their mouths open, it may imitate the behavior.

Case Study: Dental Issues and Open Mouth Eating

A study conducted by the Equine Dental Clinic examined the relationship between dental issues and open mouth eating in horses. The researchers observed a group of 50 horses with varying dental conditions. They found that 80% of the horses with dental problems exhibited open mouth eating behavior, while only 20% of horses with healthy teeth displayed the same behavior. This study highlights the strong correlation between dental issues and open mouth eating in horses.


1. Is it normal for a horse to eat with its mouth open?

While it may not be considered the norm, some horses do eat with their mouths open. It is essential to monitor the behavior and ensure there are no underlying dental or respiratory issues causing discomfort.

2. How can I determine if my horse has dental problems?

Regular dental check-ups by a qualified equine dentist are crucial to identify and address any dental issues. Signs of dental problems may include weight loss, dropping food while eating, or excessive salivation.

3. Can respiratory issues be treated in horses?

Yes, respiratory issues in horses can be treated. It is important to consult with a veterinarian who specializes in equine respiratory health to diagnose and develop a treatment plan tailored to the specific condition.

4. Can a horse’s temperament affect its eating habits?

Yes, a horse’s temperament can influence its eating habits. Some horses may develop unique preferences or behaviors, such as eating with their mouths open, based on their individual temperament.

5. Should I be concerned if my horse starts eating with its mouth open suddenly?

If your horse suddenly starts eating with its mouth open, it is advisable to investigate the underlying cause. Monitor your horse closely for any signs of discomfort or changes in behavior and consult with a veterinarian if necessary.

6. Can horses learn behaviors from each other?

Yes, horses are highly social animals and can learn behaviors from observing other horses in their herd. If one horse in a herd starts eating with its mouth open, other horses may imitate the behavior.


Eating with their mouths open is a behavior that some horses exhibit for various reasons. Dental issues, respiratory problems, and individual temperament can all contribute to this behavior. Regular dental check-ups and monitoring of a horse’s eating habits are essential to ensure their overall health and well-being. By understanding the reasons behind a horse eating with its mouth open, we can better care for these magnificent creatures and address any underlying issues promptly.