The microhardness of the enamel, primary dentine and regular secondary dentine of seven donkey and six horse incisors was determined with a Knoop indenter at the subocclusal and mid-tooth level. The mean microhardnesses of the donkey incisor enamel, primary dentine and secondary dentine were 264·6 63·00 and 53·6 Knoop Hardness Number, respectively. There was no significant difference between the microhardness of the enamel and primary dentine on the incisors of the donkeys and horses, but the microhardness of the regular secondary dentine of the donkeys' incisors at the mid-tooth level was slightly but significantly less than that of the horses. There was also a difference in the microhardness of the secondary dentine between the subocclusal and mid-tooth levels in both donkey and horse incisors.
Because most donkeys live well beyond 30 years of age (Crane 1997), it has been proposed that their teeth may be harder than the teeth of horses, wear more slowly, and thus remain functional for longer (Misk and Seilem 1999). There have been studies of dental microhardness in human beings (Craig and Peyton 1958, Collys and others 1992), sheep (Suckling 1979), cattle (Attin and others 1997) and horses (Muylle and others 1999b). In horses, there are differences between breeds in the rate of dental wear caused by attrition (Muylle and others 1997, 1998) and in the microhardness of enamel and secondary dentine (Muylle and others 1999b), which could account for these differences. It is proposed that there may be a similar difference between the microhardness of the teeth of donkeys and horses that may contribute to the less rapid attrition of donkey teeth.
The aim of this study was to compare the microhardness of the enamel and primary and secondary dentine of the incisor teeth of donkeys and horses, to determine whether there was a significant difference between them.