Dog Ears: A Quick Lesson in Canine Ear Identification

dog ears

dog ears

Dog ears…

If you have a Labrador or a Cocker Spaniel then chances are that you are more familiar with your dog’s ears than many other dog owners. But did you know that there are more than ten different “styles” of dog ear?

The style of your dog’s ears can tell you a lot about their breed origin if they are a mixed breed. It can also tell you about the breed characteristics inherent to purebred dogs. In the case of some dogs, it can also tell you just how vigilant you need to be with grooming and cleaning your pup’s ears!

Today we are going to talk a little bit about the different ear types and what they can tell you about your dog.

The Different Types of Dog Ears

Below you will find the main classifications of dog ears. Purebred dogs fall into one of these main categories. If you have a mixed breed dog, they may fall into one of these categories or they may show a mix of different types of ear characteristics that can help you to determine their parental lineage.

West Highland White with prick ears

Prick Ears

Prick ears are ears that stand to a point, they are sharply erect but should not be confused with cropped ears. Cropped ears are ears that are surgically encouraged to stand upright where they would naturally fall flat, for example, in a Doberman Pinscher.

Breeds that have prick ears include Malamutes, West Highland Whites, Samoyeds, Siberian Huskies, and Cairn Terriers.

Prick ears are beneficial for better reception of sound. Larger prick ears are also able to amplify and funnel sound. Prick ears may also move independently of the head allowing for a better hearing range.

Blunt eared Chow Chow

Blunt Ears

Blunt ears are ears that stand upright but rather than having a sharp pointed tip, they are rounded at the peak.

Breeds that have blunt ears include French Bulldogs, Chow Chows, and some Akitas depending on their breeding.

Blunt ears have the same benefits as pricked ears.

Bat eared Chihuahua

Bat Ears

Bat ears are ears that stand upright and are considerably large in comparison to the head. These ears will often make the head take on a ‘V’ shape when you look at it head-on because they frequently extend out to the sides of the head diagonally.

Breeds that have bat ears include Corgi’s, Ibizan Hounds, and Chihuahuas.

Bat ears have the same benefits as pricked ears, however, their large size helps to amplify and funnel sound for an increased hearing range.

hooded eared Basenji

Hooded Ears

Hooded ears are similar to (and often considered a sub-category of) prick ears. Hooded ears stand erect like the prick ear, but they are characterized by a deep concave curve. Hooded ears also tend to be smaller in size overall.

Breeds that have hooded ears include Basenji’s and Pharoah Hounds.

Hooded ears have the same benefits as pricked ears but the concave curve allows for better reception of sound.

candle flame eared Manchester Terrier
By, CC BY 3.0, Link

Candle Flame Ears

The candle flame ear is so named because the profile of the ear resembles the shape of a candle flame. This type of ear is erect with a slight concave curve at the base of the ear. The edge of the ear appears “pinched”.

Breeds that have candle flame ears include Manchester Terriers and English Toy Terriers.

Candle flame ears have the same benefits as pricked ears.

lop eared Beagle

Lop Ears

Referred to by biologists as “lop ears” we often refer to this type of ear as being “drop ears” or “pendant ears”. Lop ears are ears that hang down from the point where they attach to the head. This type of ear can vary quite drastically and includes the longer fluffy rounded ears of the Beagle and the flat triangular pendant ears of the Labrador Retriever.

Breeds that have lop ears include Beagles, Labradors, American Foxhounds, Dachshunds, Harriers, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

Lop ears are found in breeds that rely more on their sense of smell than their hearing when hunting. Often these dogs benefit from the protection offered by the drop of the ear when working, for example, the Labrador was bred to spend much of the day in cold waters and the drop ear allows for warmth to be retained rather than expelled from the body. Drop ears also protect the interior of the ear against damage and debris in smaller dogs like Beagles who were bred to hunt smaller underground game like rabbits and gophers.

folded eared Bloodhound

Folded Ears

Folded ears are a variation of lop ears that hang with a folded appearance (think of a pair of curtains).

Breeds that have folded ears include Bloodhounds and Cocker Spaniels.

Folded ears are beneficial for dogs that rely on scent to hunt. The ears help to waft scent molecules toward the nose for better scent tracking.

V-shaped eared Vizsla

V-Shaped Ears

V-shaped ears are another sub-category of lop ears. This ear is characterized by the ‘V’ created by the shape and drop of the ear.

Breeds that have V-shaped ears include the Vizsla and the Bullmastiff.

V-shaped ears have the same benefits as non-folded lop ears.

filbert eared Bedlington Terrier

Filbert Ears

Filbert ears are rather unique and are so named for their shape which resembles the leaf of the hazelnut tree (AKA filbert tree). A rounded triangular drop ear, the filbert ear has a characteristic tassel that hangs from the tip of the ear.

The only noted breed with filbert ears is the Bedlington Terrier

Filbert ears have the same benefits as non-folded lop ears. The tassels on the Bedlington’s ears are thought to have been developed to protect the tips of the ear when the dog was hunting for rats and when being used for pit fighting (sadly in the past many Bedlington owners would use their dogs for “sport” fighting.)

filbert leaf

Just because I know you’re wondering, the picture above is a filbert leaf.

Semi-pricked eared Border Collie

Semi-Pricked Ears

Semi-pricked ears are also sometimes called “cocked ears” and they are pricked ears that fold over at the top rather than standing completely erect.

Breeds that have semi-pricked ears include Border Collies and Collies.

Semi-pricked ears offer improved hearing while also providing some protection of the inner ear against the elements. These dogs are often herding breeds that rely on sound heavily but that also spend a good deal of time outdoors.

button eared terrier

Button Ears

Button ears are medium-sized ears that stand erect but that fold over themselves so that they look as if they have been “buttoned down”. The flap in front of the ear hides most of the ear behind it.

Breeds that have button ears include Jack Russell Terriers, Irish Terriers, Airedale Terriers, and Smooth Fox Terriers.

Button ears are beneficial for protecting the inner ear of smaller hunting breeds from debris as they tunnel after prey. The smaller size prevents ears catching and makes it harder for rodents to bite them.

rose eared Greyhound

Rose Ears

Rose ears stand erect but fold over slightly at the tip while remaining “open” and folded backward. This type of ear is so named because the folds in the ear give an appearance similar to that of the petals of a rose.

Breeds that have rose ears include Greyhounds, Whippets, Bulldogs, and Pugs.

Rose ears are beneficial for two reasons. In dogs that were frequently bred for fighting, the rose ears were more difficult for opponents to tear ears or latch on during fights. In dogs that were bred for racing or speed, rose ears offer a more streamlined physiology.

What type of ears does your dog have? Leave a comment and let us know!

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