Why Do Dog Ears Get Cropped?

Dog ears get cropped mostly because it's a tradition that has been passed down for centuries. Many breed standards for specific breeds require dog ears to be cropped. In some dog breeds having cropped ears is so important that uncropped ears are strongly frowned upon and even means for disqualification in the show ring.

In order to understand why dog ears get cropped, it's helpful to take a look back and learn more about the history surrounding this practice. The practice dates back in time when certain dogs breeds were used for hunting or for the bloody sport of fighting. With the ban of fighting, the practice of ear cropping though still prevails despite much controversy. 

What is Ear Cropping in Dogs?

Ear cropping, also known as cosmetic otoplasty, is the practice of removing parts of the dog's pinnae (the floppy portion of the ear). This procedure is generally performed in puppies between 9 and 12 weeks of age after receiving their vaccinations. The surgical procedure requires general anesthesia.

Following the removal of the pinnae, the ears are stitched up. Depending on the type of ear crop, the puppy's ears may be taped for the purpose of maintaining the desired ear shape. During this recovery time, pain relievers may or may not be given. 

Ear cropping is an ancient practice that was once carried out for a variety of reasons including health, practicality and aesthetic reasons. 

Nowadays, the practice of ear cropping has been banned in several countries, but it is still in practice in certain countries and applied to specific dog breeds. 

The procedure is for a great extent done for cosmetic purposes so to provide an alert expression in guard dogs and to attain the distinctive appearance associated with certain purebred dogs.

doberman
A Doberman with cropped ears and a Doberman with uncropped ears

Dog Breeds With Cropped Ears

Currently, ear cropping is performed in more than 20 dog breeds. Examples of dog breeds with cropped ears include the following:

  • Doberman pinschers
  • Miniature pinschers
  • Boxers
  • Boston terriers
  • Brussels griffon
  • Great danes
  • Schnauzers
  • Beauceron
  • American Pitbull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Cane corso
  • Caucasian shepherd dog

A Look Back in History

The practice of ear cropping dates back several centuries (dating back to ancient Rome), when dogs were used for work and were performing various tasks that may have predisposed them to ear injuries.

For instance, livestock guardians dogs such as the Caucasian shepherd dog and Maremma sheepdog, traditionally had their ears cropped to protect their ears from wolves and other aggressors. Dogs used in pit fighting sports had their ears cropped to prevent animals from fighting back and grabbing onto the ears.

In dog breeds bred as guardians, ear cropping was often carried out due to the belief that an erect ear was better capable of detecting sounds compared to a floppy ear. There was also belief in the past that cropped ears were less prone to medical complications such as ear infections.

Nowadays, with pit fighting outlawed and most dogs being kept as companions rather than working dogs, the practice of ear cropping is still popular and mostly carried out for cosmetic purposes and to adhere to the breed standard for people showing their dogs in the conformation ring. 

Did you know? Victorian era painter Sir Edwin Henry Landseer refused to paint any animal with cropped ears. He considered them as "injured in point of health and beauty." (Source:  Leonardo’s Choice: Genetic Technologies and Animals)

cane corso
A Cane Corso with a "battle crop." The ear cropping stems from the olden days when this dog breed was used for hunting and animals could have injured its ears. Today, ears are often cropped short to make the dog look more powerful

Now That You Know...

If you are debating on whether getting your dog's ears cropped, you will quickly find out that this practice is subject to great controversy. 

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has released a statement on the subject of ear cropping and tail docking. The organization's statement claims that "ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal, as described in certain breed standards are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health."

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), on the other hand, opposes the practice of ear cropping. In a position statement, the organization requests that veterinarians counsel and educate pet owners that this procedure should only be performed when medically necessary. AAHA also advocated for eliminating ear cropping from breed standards.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) as well in a statement opposed ear cropping performed for cosmetic reasons and encourages removal of erect ear requirements in certain breeds from breed standards. 

The AVMA also goes on to explain that most dogs with hanging ears will not suffer from infections and that ear conformation is not considered to be a primary cause for the onset of ear infections. Instead, the incidence of ear infections in dogs appears to be mostly associated with certain dog breeds (as often seen in Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, and even German Shepherd Dogs- which have erect ears). 

This means that it would be wrong to assume that ear cropping has a medical purpose as there is no evidence to suggest that.

Currently, there are several countries that have introduced legislations that restrict, or even ban ear cropping in dogs. In the United States, the practice remains unrestricted, although in some states, including New York and Vermont,  bills to make the practice illegal are being considered.

Whether you should crop your dog's ears or not, therefore, ultimately remains a personal decision (albeit requiring deep thinking about the pros and cons) if the country in which you reside allows it. 

Did you know? According to a recent study, dogs with cropped ears and docked tails appear to be negatively perceived by the public. Not only that, this same negative perception appearently carries over to the dog's owners. 

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