Dogmatic Logo
The Canine in Conversation
contents page back to last page visited reload this page prior page in site next page in site
diagram of teeth showing multiple views
figure 1  


canines. (teeth) The pointed teeth in the front of the mouth next to the incisors and before the premolars. Also known as dogteeth or eye-teeth.reference 1

Here the implication that humans share characteristics with dogs is distinctly biological, named for their similarity in structure and purpose rather than as a matter of shared genetic heritage. In his definitive text, The Permanent Canine Teeth (referring to teeth in a human's mouth, not that of a dog), Clarke Johnson notes that “They are especially anchored as prehensile teeth in the group from whence they get their name, the Carnivora.reference 2 “Prehensile” means “grasping or seizing” and, to my mind, references humans’ animal nature.

an open mouth with a finger and label pointing to the tooth two spaces to the right of the front tooth
figure 2  
But what does this evocation of dogs mean? In 2005, shortly after Mark Felt was revealed to have been the Watergate leaker nicknamed Deep Throat, humorist Larry David wrote a satire for the New York Times editorial page. He described a recent encounter with a man he at first took to be his former informant: “Of course, it wasn't him, but a man with no discernible features, except for his canines, which extended well beyond his lower lip.”reference 3 Despite this vivid image, I confess I am still less than clear about what it is that large incisors say about the man.

1. Whitney, William Dwight and Benjamin E. Smith. 1914. The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia; with a New Atlas of the World. New York: Century Co. Accessed from http:// century/.


2. Johnson, Clarke. 1991. The Permanent Canine Teeth. The University of Illinois, at Chicago , College of Dentistry. Accessed Feb 1 2002 from http:// classes/orla/ orla312/CANINES.htm.


3. David, Larry. 2005. Notes from the Underground. New York Times, Jun 5, 14

About the illustrations: Figure 1 shows a diagram of a human canine. Adapted and redesigned from an illustration for the course, Biology of Human Dentition, ORLA 312, 1999, at University of Illinois School of Dentistry, artist unknown.

Figure 2 shows where in the mouth the canine resides. Collaged by the author.

cf: houndstooth Last updated: June 21, 2008
by Alec MacLeod 2001-2008  Dogmatic Technologies Oakland Creative Commons unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Alec MacLeod and included in The Canine in Conversation and any related pages, is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Please read the Terms of Use Agreement by Alec MacLeod Dogmatic Technologies