Observations were made of the ages at first appearance of each pair of permanent incisors (‘eruption age’), and the time from first appearance to full eruption of each pair (‘eruption period’), for Large East African Zebu cattle (Boran). For females the eruption ages were found to be 108·5±9·9 weeks, 137·2±12·9, 165·7±15·8, and 200·9±18·2 for incisor pairs one to four respectively; for steers the figures were 104·3±7·9, 130·3±10·6, 154·6±13·2, and 180·9±14·0; and for bulls 103·3±8·6, 127·6±11·2, 151·0±12·9, and 181·2±15·7. Females were significantly different from steers (P < 0.01), but steers not significantly different from bulls, for all four incisor pairs.
The distributions of eruption ages for each sex and pair can be considered as Normal for statistical purposes. There is a tendency for eruption to be asymmetrical after the first pair, with the right tooth preceding the left.
Correlations of eruption ages between adjacent pairs are of the order of 0·80 for all pairs and sexes; they decrease progressively as pairs intervene to 0·55 for the first and fourth pairs. Partial correlations approach zero when any intermediate pair is held constant. These results indicate that the whole eruption process is highly interdependent.
Evaluation of age grouping and estimations from the presence of incisors showed that this technique, although limited on its own, is still the best developmental trait for ageing. A steer with one incisor pair present had a probability of 0·108 of being the same age or older than one with two pairs. The ages of steers with one and two incisor pairs present were 115·7±12·05 and 140·7±14·27 weeks respectively.
Heritabilities of eruption age, for the various incisor pairs, varied between 0·91±0·33 and 0·43±0·25 for females, and 0·87±0·37 and 0·11±0·59 for steers.
Sources of environmental variation examined were variation between and within years, both of which were of the same order and a very small proportion of the total variation. The maternal environment had a small effect, probably specifically associated with milk consumption, which had a correlation of —0·22 for females and —0·12 for steers (P < 0.01) with the eruption age of the first incisor pair.
Eruption periods for females were 5·1±2·8 weeks, 5·7±3·8, 6·8±4·5, and 8·8±5·6 for pairs one to four respectively; for steers 4·6±2·6, 4·9±2·9, 5·6±3·8, 7·2±5·3; and for bulls 4·9±2·2, 4·8±2·7, 5·7±3·8, 6·0±3·3. Females were significantly slower than steers (P < 0·05) for the first three incisor pairs only, while steers did not differ significantly from bulls for any pair.
The distribution of eruption periods was positively skewed, and the correlations between pairs ranged between 0·0 and 0·35. Correlations of eruption ages and periods within incisor pairs lay between 0·50 and 0·95.
Variation of eruption periods was not significant within years, but was between years, and arose almost entirely from the first two experimental years. The majority of the heritabilities approached zero.
Growth rate differences probably accounted for the differences in eruption periods between the four incisor pairs and the three sexes. The cause of asymmetry of eruption was not the source of the variation in eruption times within incisor pairs, the first tooth consistently having a greater eruption time.