The Reason Pitbull Ear Cropping is Done and Whether it Should Be Stopped

Pitbulls are known for their fierce looks which is accentuated by their perky prick ears. However, their ears are surgically altered to achieve that look.

Historically, ear crop styles appeared in herding and hunting dogs before they were adopted by the blood sport of dogfighting.

An American Staffordshire Terrier with cropped ears
An American Staffordshire Terrier with cropped ears smiling

Today, ear cropping is a controversial topic and a hot topic for debate regarding whether cropping serves any purpose or if it’s only for cosmetic reasons.

In this article, we’ll explore the origins of Pitbull ear cropping and the pros and cons of this practice.

What Do Pitbulls’ Ears Look Like?

Pitbulls have natural rosebud ears which can have the appearance of a rose when folded backward, due to the positioning of the ear cartilage. Their natural ears closely resemble those of a Labrador’s or a Whippet’s ears.

A Pitbull dog with its natural ears
The Pitbull with a pair of natural ears

When their ears fold forward, it gives the Pitbull a goofy look. This is especially true in young Pitbull puppies that haven’t grown into their oversized floppy ears.

The size of the outer ear varies from dog to dog as there are a few different types of Pitbulls with ears of varying sizes.

The History Behind Pitbull Ear Cropping

An American Pitbull Terrier playing in the field
An APBT with cropped ears plays in the field – Image source

Before the rise of modern technology, it was believed by the Romans that ear cropping would prevent rabies.

When dogs became domesticated for guarding livestock and hunting, long tails and floppy ears made them prone to injury.

Removing flaps of the skin decreases the chances of a wild animal or aggressor from getting a strong grip on the dog.

When dogfighting became a common pastime, owners would crop their dog’s ears to give them the same advantage.

Unfortunately, this practice continues to persist in modern times and it isn’t uncommon to see a pet dog with cropped ears despite having no need for them.

There are four types of ear crop styles to choose from. There’s the tall or long crop that leaves ¾ of the ear’s original length and is mostly seen on Dobermans.

An American Pitbull Terrier with long cropped ears
Atlas, a APBT, shows his long cropped ears – Image source

The short crop only leaves ⅓ of the ear’s original length and is best for breeds like Staffordshires, with their bulky flat heads.

An American Bully with short cropped ears
A cute American Bully with short cropped ears – Image source

The most requested crop is the show crop. Done right, it gives the appearance of having horns that are proportionate to the dog’s head.

An American Bully with show cropped ears
Dory, an American Bully, sports his show cropped ears – Image source

Lastly, we have the battle crop, whereby most of the outer ear is removed, and the ears are tiny stubs that offer no purchase for other dogs to bite onto.

A leashed American Bully with battle cropped ears
An American Bully with battle cropped ears – Image source

The Cropping Process: How are Pitbull Ears Cropped?

The 30 – 45 minute surgical procedure should always be done under full anesthesia by a licensed veterinarian. The pinna, or the flap of skin that makes up part of the outer ear, is cut into the desired shape and sutured.

Ear cropping usually takes place when the puppy is around 9 to 12 weeks of age. During this time, the ear cartilage of the outer ear is still soft and pliable.

The owner may choose the varying degree of crops as mentioned above in the history section.

The procedure is not done on dogs above the age of one because it is believed that it will become extremely painful due to the hardening of the cartilage. Furthermore, it may not produce desirable results.

Aftercare includes pain medication and a specific method of bandaging to ensure that the ears maintain their erect appearance.

Bandaging so that the ears heal into the desired prick position often includes cardboard and can last for months.

Special attention should also be given to the ears to ensure they are healing well and don’t develop an infection. The dog’s ears will be sensitive for several weeks and the average healing period takes 10 to 14 days.

Why is Pitbull Ear Cropping Controversial?

An American Staffordshire Terrier with cropped ears in the field
An AmStaff with cropped ears walking in the field – Image source

The practice of cropping Pitties’ ears is controversial because there isn’t any concrete evidence to suggest that it is a beneficial operation. On the contrary, ear cropping is painful and not without its dangers.

Is it cruel to crop a dog’s ears?

There’s the risk of a puppy reacting adversely to the anesthesia or permanent scarring due to infections which may result in the entire outer ear being removed.

After the surgery is done, the puppy will be in considerable pain and will require follow-up treatment such as pain meds and bandaging. There’s also the possibility that your pup may suffer from lifelong pain or sensitivity.

Aside from the pain that dogs go through, ear cropping is essentially handicapping your dog’s ability to communicate. Losing part of their ear means that they are no longer able to express themselves effectively, and this may lead to human misunderstandings or dog fights.

Furthermore, ear cropping is not officially part of the veterinary syllabus and it’s through trial and error that vets continue to do this.

Are Pitbulls with cropped ears considered more aggressive and dangerous?

Yes, people who see dogs with cropped ears tend to shy away due to their appearance, as the angular shapes give the impression that the dog is alert and ready to attack.

Ear cropping is actually intended to make them look fiercer and more intimidating, and it does the job extremely well. It does the job so well that even the owners are perceived as dangerous.

According to a research paper published in 2016, people tend to regard pet owners whose dog’s ears are cropped as “narcissistic” and prone to “social conflicts”.

Is Pitbull ear cropping legal?

Pitbull ear cropping is legal in some countries such as America and is unrestricted in India.

It is banned in Australia, New Zealand, and some parts of Europe, including the UK.

Canada is slowly edging ear cropping out of practice, with provinces like Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Labrador opposing the cosmetic surgery.

Are there health benefits to Pitbull Clipped Ears?

There are those who believe that dogs hear better without the outer flap covering their ear canal, as soundwaves would travel straight to the dog’s eardrums. However, there is no scientific evidence to back this theory.

Pitbull owners who support ear cropping often state the prevention of injury, ear infections, and better hearing as reasons to employ ear cropping styles.

However, a look at other dog breeds will paint a different picture.

English Cocker Spaniel is a breed known for its predisposition to develop ear canal infections but the breed doesn’t partake in ear cropping.

In fact, not all dog breeds with drop or rosebud ears that are prone to ear infections participate in ear cropping.

Furthermore, dogs with cropped ears can still develop ear infections. Even dogs with naturally erect ears like the GSD can still get ear infections.

This implies that the practice of ear cropping isn’t solely about ear infection prevention, but to make the dog look a certain way, which renders the procedure a cosmetic procedure instead of a beneficial one.

With dog lovers trying to disassociate Pitbulls with dog fights, sporting an ear crop doesn’t help their cause. The negative association of having part of the ear removed is believed to perpetuate Pitbulls as an aggressive breed.

Similar to the practice of tail docking, dog owners are beginning to question the necessity of maintaining these practices that are sometimes viewed as cruel.

Without proper research to back up claims that ear cropping can prevent ear infections or improve their hearing, the general consensus is that cropped ears do more harm than good and is a practice that should be stopped.

Is Pitbull Ear Cropping needed to compete in shows?

No, your dog’s ears don’t have to be cropped in order to compete in shows, although it does help.

The American Kennel Club insinuates that ear cropping should be done in order to preserve the breed’s standard, especially so in police or military dogs as it supposedly keeps them safe from working hazards.

However, ear cropping is not mandatory.

The American Veterinary Medical Association doesn’t echo AKC’s sentiments and opposes ear cropping in non-working dogs, including dogs that participate in dog shows.

The good news is that the breed standard is shifting and evolving with current trends. Ear cropping is going out of style and many veterinary practices no longer perform these surgeries.

Frequently Asked Questions:

A Bluenose APBT with cropped ears
A 6-month-old Bluenose Pitbull with cropped ears – Image source

How do you clean Pitbulls ears?

You can get a dog ear cleaning solution from online marketplaces like Amazon or at your local pet store. Put a few drops of this into your dog’s ear canal and massage the base of your dog’s ear to dislodge any wax or debris.

Use a clean cloth or a cotton ball to wipe your dog’s ears dry, taking care to remove any stains or wax that you can see.

You should never use a cotton swab to attempt to clean out the inner part of your dog’s ear as you might injure your dog or cause an infection.

If your dog repeatedly shakes its head or scratches its ears, it could mean that your dog has an ear infection. Other symptoms include discharge and a foul smell.

Ear infections should be dealt with quickly as they can lead to deafness.

What other breeds get their ears cropped?

Below are some of the breeds that traditionally get their ears cropped:

  • American Bully
  • American Pitbull Terrier
  • Bouvier des Flandres
  • Beauceron
  • Boxer
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Boston Terrier
  • Caucasian Shepherd Dog
  • Cane Corso
  • Doberman
  • Great Dane
  • German Pinscher
  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Manchester Terrier
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Standard Doberman Pinscher
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Standard Schnauzer

Conclusion: Should You Crop Your Pitbull’s Ears?

Two American Pitbull Terriers
Two full-grown American Pitbull Terrier dogs

Before you make the lifelong decision on whether you should crop your Pittie’s ears, consider why you want to crop your dog’s ears.

Is it to decrease their chances of getting hurt in their line of work or to increase their chances at dog shows?

Are you ready to deal with the dogfighting stigma that comes with clipped ears, the risks of a failed surgery, or the costs that are associated with ear cropping?

Did you think that Pitbulls were born with their perky ears?

Let us know in the comments whether you prefer them with natural ears or cropped ears, and don’t forget to share this so more people are aware of the pros and cons of ear cropping surgery.

Further reading: Be a Better Dog Owner by Learning all about the following!

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