Modified Dogs’ Ears and Tails: Why It Started

One of the most controversial issues in the dog world today is the cropping dogs’ ears and docking their tails.

For some breeds, like Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Schnauzers, and others, one or both is an accepted breed standard. But did you ever wonder why these practices were begun in the first place?

Ear Cropping

Many breeds of dogs have been used through the years for a variety of jobs that put them in danger. Some dogs are used as guard dogs against human predators. Others are used to guard sheep and other livestock from animal predators.

Still others are used to help humans hunt wild animals. Some of these wild animals are very dangerous, like wild boar.

For dogs used for these purposes, an ear flap was a liability. A predator, human or animal could grab a dog’s ear flap, restricting the dog’s movement or seriously injuring the dog. To help safeguard the dog from this danger, the dangling part of the ear would be trimmed back, and the ears would be bandaged in an upright position. As the ears healed, they would continue to stand erect, making them more difficult to grab.

Cropped and Docked Doberman Pinschers

Cropped and Docked Doberman Pinschers | istockphoto/JamesBrey

Tail Docking

The practice of tail docking (amputating most of the tail) goes all the way back to the ancient Romans, who believed cutting a dog’s tail and tongue prevented rabies.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Puritans of early America would cut off dogs’ tails because they believed the tails were possessed by demons.

About the same time in England, dogs used for hunting and gaming were taxed, but the working dogs on farms were not taxed. To distinguish between the two, the working dogs had their tails docked. An interesting side-effect was that owning a dog with a long tail was considered a sign of affluence.

Through the years, other reasons popped up for docking tails. Some who used dogs to help with livestock feared the large animals might step on a dog’s tail, causing serious injury. Many hunters feared their dogs’ tails would be grabbed by their prey. Other hunters were concerned that their dogs would get their tails tangled in brush or brambles, which could be painful or harmful to the dogs.

Docked Boxer

Docked Boxer | istockphoto/Alona Rjabceva

Cropping and Docking in Today’s Society

Over time, it become customary to see certain dogs with docked tails and cropped ears. It became accepted, then expected, for the dogs to look a certain way and eventually came to be the breed standard.

Things are much different today and most breed organizations moving away from these antiquated practices.

Meet the Author: Pam Hair

Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.

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