What Is A Tusk And Which Animals Have It?

Elephants are well known for their prominent tusks.
Elephants are well known for their prominent tusks.

Tusks are protruding teeth beyond the mouth of certain mammals and usually occur in pairs. Tusks grow continuously and are modified to help in feeding and self-defense. These modified and elongated teeth are mostly canine teeth in a majority of mammals such as warthogs, walruses, and wild pigs. In the case of elephants, tusks protrude from incisors and are important for survival in many ways. Tusks can occur in pairs as in elephants or as a single protruding tooth as in narwhals. They vary in shape and size and are adapted to aid in feeding, digging, and self-defense. Majority of tusks are curved, with the exception of a narwhal’s tusk which is straight and helical in structure. Here are the mammals known for their prominent tusks.

Animals With Tusks


Elephants are well known for their tusks which protrude from their incisors. They could weigh up to 90kg but on average they weigh 45kg. Male elephants have larger tusks than the females. Elephants use their tusks for feeding, boring holes, and stripping the bark of trees. Other secondary functions of the elephant’s tusks include the display of dominance which is vital when attracting a mate. Due to their prominent tusks, elephants are illegally poached for their ivory. This has led to the killing of many elephants that are otherwise healthy. Poachers are a great threat to the survival of elephants.


Walruses are aquatic animals found in the Arctic and belong to a group of mammals known as pinnipeds. These large mammals can weigh up to one and a half tons. Walruses have straight tusks which grow downwards and continue to do so throughout the lives of the individuals. These tusks are protruding canines and are found in both male and female walruses. The tusks perform many functions including ‘tooth-walking’ which is a habit where walruses use their tusks to raise themselves out of the water. Other secondary functions of walruses include self-defense and display of dominance to attract females.


The narwhal is a type of whale found in the waters of the Arctic Ocean. It has a single tusk that can protrude up to 8 feet in length and stems from the upper jaw. A narwhal can weigh up to 950 kg. The tusks are straight in a spiral pattern. Only male narwhals have tusks which they use to display dominance and attract female narwhals.

Wild Pig

Wild pigs such as the warthog have two pairs of tusks. The first pair is much larger and more curved than the smaller pair which is shorter and pointing downwards. Tusks are mainly used for defense and attracting female for mating purposes.


This behemoth mammal has tusks originating from the lower incisor teeth. These teeth are considered tusks and some poachers hunt them for ivory. The hippo is one of the heaviest mammals on land. Their tusks continue to grow during the lifetime of the hippo. Since their tusks do not develop a yellow coloration with age like many others, they are considered more valuable in the ivory trade market. Hippos use their tusks to fight other bulls and defend their territory.


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