Power of an Alligator’s Jaws

An excerpt from EA McIlhenny’s 1935 book, ​The Alligator’s Life History:

Profile portrait close up of an American Alligator laying in the grass in the Stephen C Foster State Park campground. Showing teeth, scales and details. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. May 2020. ©www.williamwisephoto.com

“​The power of an alligator when closing its jaws and its power to keep its jaws closed is enormous. With a quick snap, it can crush the bones of a full-grown cow. I have an eleven foot alligator in my possession now, called Frank, who shortly after being caught had thrust between his gaping jaws a flat piece of two-inch-thick steel. He closed on this metal with such force, that the long ninth tooth on each side of his upper jaw was driven by the force of its closing on the metal clear through the bony top of his upper jaw, and the hollow ends of his teeth protruded above the bone. With an ordinary pair of heavy pliers, I caught hold of these teeth and pulled them through the jaw from the top, as they would never have grown back in place. The holes left healed over, but this alligator has never grown teeth where these were broken through.”


E.A. McIlhenny (1872 – 1949), of the McIlhenny Tabasco Sauce company, was a hunter, explorer and naturalist that established the Avery Island wildlife refuge on his family estate in Louisiana and wrote The Alligator’s Life History in 1935. While some of his statements are criticized by modern science, he was one of the most knowledgeable alligator experts in the country at the time. His work contains valuable information and entertaining anecdotes.

iNaturalist observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/61659430

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