Why Dogs Have Different Ears

Some dogs have floppy ears, others have round ones, and others stick straight up in the air.

You’ve probably wondered why dog ears come in so many shapes and sizes and whether or not each of these designs serve a special purpose. It turns out that the answer is a little more complicated than you might think, but we’re here to explain those adorable appendages for you.

Rose Ears

Rose ears are ones where they begin to rise a little but then fall off to the side, like what you’ll see in Greyhounds, Pugs, and Pit Bull breeds. The reasoning behind these ears is a little more complicated than the others, as they were bred into different breeds for distinctly different reasons. Greyhounds and similar breeds were given these ears because it was felt that the shape helped them run faster by streamlining their heads. Bull Terriers, on the other hand, had these ears bred into them for fighting purposes. It was thought that rose ears would be safer from being bitten during a fight.

©istockphoto/canada96

©istockphoto/canada96

Prick Ears

The prick-eared breeds are the ones closest in relation to their wolf ancestors with, usually, the least amount of crossbreeding in their system. They’re dogs with ears at their most natural state, straight up into the air. Huskies, Samoyeds, and Westies all fall into this category. These ears, on top of being completely adorable, provide the dog with a greater sense of hearing than the others because there’s nothing hanging down blocking sound from reaching inside. You might have noticed that dogs with these ears have a cute habit of moving them independently of their head, meaning they’ll often cock one or more ear to the side while still staring straight ahead.

©istockphoto/Thanawat_treetrisit

©istockphoto/Thanawat_treetrisit

Drop Ears

Drops ears, otherwise knowns as floppy ears, hang by the side of the dog’s head and are found in numerous breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Blood Hounds, and Vizslas. Most breeds with these ears were originally bred to hunt through scent, rather than sound, thus necessitating the need to drown out noises around them. The floppy design covers the entrance to the ear canal and works to block out sound to a degree, allowing the hunting dogs to focus on the smells in front of them. That was the idea, at least. The downside of this ear design is that they’re the hardest to read when you’re trying to discern a dog’s mood.

©istockphoto/valleyboi63

©istockphoto/valleyboi63

Button Ears

The button ears are ones which start to up stick up but then fold over toward the front about halfway up. Jack Russells are probably the most famous breed with these types of ears, and they were designed by breeders to help protect them while crawling through tunnels during a hunt. The tips that fold over just enough to cover the opening helped prevent dirt and bugs from getting inside! They aren’t quite adept at picking up sounds from long distances as prick ears, but the difference is negligible at best.

©istockphoto/Mike Dabell

©istockphoto/Mike Dabell

Each of these different ear types actually have their own unique subsets, depending on the way they rest and fold, but we hope now that you have a better idea of how your pup came to look as adorable as he does! Those ears are there for a reason, so lets all do our best to leave them natural and beautiful just the way they are.

Meet the Author: Ben Kerns

Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible. This stuff gets expensive.

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