Pitbulls originally have ears that are wide and stand up straight, yet the short, cropped, folded-over look has become more associated with Pitbull breeds. That look is achieved by cropping, or removing part of the dog’s ear. If you’re like most people who see this and wonder why owners cut the ears of their pitbulls, today’s article will answer that question in depth.
Why do people cut the ears of Pitbulls? By cutting or cropping a Pitbull’s ears, their ears are less vulnerable if the dog fights (which most Pits don’t anymore). Also, the look is supposed to contribute to the alertness and even the fearsomeness of the Pitbull.
In today’s post, I’ll discuss the process of cropping Pitbull’s ears, delve further into why people do it and talk about the various ear cropping styles.
Table of Contents
Why Do People Cut Pitbulls’ Ears?
Okay, so what’s the appeal of cropping a Pitbull’s ears? Here are some reasons that cosmetic otoplasties rose to prominence more than 100 years ago and why some vets will still do them today.
When the Pitbull was first bred in the United Kingdom and later in the United States, one of its primary purposes was dogfighting.
The pitbull also referred to as “Pit” would have made a good choice for fighting given its musculature and strong bite, but it had one glaring vulnerability: its ears. Long ears could be targeted by another dog or animal in the fight, being bitten and pulled on.
Someone then decided that it would be better if their Pitbull had a lower profile ear that was harder to get a hold of so cropping the pit’s or pitbull’s ears became commonplace.
Since dog fighting is illegal across the United States today and in other parts of the world, this benefit is all but erased.
Dog owners who decided to crop their Pits’ ears also claimed it was beneficial for their health. There is some credence to this, admittedly.
Dogs with longer, floppier ears tend to get ear infections more than breeds with shorter, more erect ears.
A few of the more commonly known floppy-eared breeds that are susceptible to ear infections are the Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels. Uncropped, the Pitbull does have big ears, but not big enough that his ears could be considered floppy.
As a matter of fact, as the Pit matures, his ears grow into his head so they’re not as large. He wouldn’t be prone to ear infections in adulthood, and I don’t think he’d get that many frequent ear infections in puppyhood either.
The other health benefit of cropping a Pit’s ears is to help his hearing. This is another area where yes, dogs with longer ears have a hearing disadvantage because their ears can’t send sound waves to the ear canal the same way a dog with shorter ears can. Again though, Pits don’t have long, floppy ears, making this a non-issue as well.
Looks or Appearance
Here’s the biggest and most prominent reason for cutting a Pitbull’s ears. As a puppy with its natural ears, a Pitbull is cute, some may even say downright adorable. That doesn’t mesh with the image that most people have of Pits, so those ears have to go. They want the dog to look terrifying and on-alert so he can intimidate people, and floppy ears just don’t work for that.
Pitbull Ear Cropping Styles
Speaking of the looks of a Pit’s ear, I want to talk about the different cropping styles next. There are four such styles: long crop, short crop, show crop, and battle crop. Here’s an overview of each style.
A long crop involves leaving the most of the Pitbull’s original ears intact. Rather than removing a lot of cartilage, this cropping style is all about pinning the ears up so they stand tall and imposing.
The next shortest length is the show crop, which may be named after show dogs, or those dogs that compete in excellence competitions for their breed. A show crop is a little more than half as tall as a long crop, with a more unnatural pointed edge to the ear.
One step down from longest to shortest ears is the appropriately-named short crop. The dog loses at least an inch or two of ear from the show crop to the short crop. The Pit’s ears still have a pointed edge, but it’s somewhat more rounded than a show crop.
The most dramatic Pitbull ear cropping style is the battle crop. The height of the dog’s ears is as short as it can be without possibly causing damage. That leaves the ears as little more than small triangles that barely protrude over the Pitbull’s head. If he was to fight, an opponent would have nothing to grab onto, which may be the point, judging by the name of this cropping style.
How Are Pitbull’s Ears Cropped?
Pitbull’s ears begin in a rosebud shape at birth, named after the form of the cartilage. This cartilage curls slightly upward to give pitbull puppies large, wide ears with a folded flap.
If an owner decides they don’t like the shape of the Pit’s ears, they can get the ears changed through cropping or cutting, a surgical procedure that’s considered elective.
Most cropping procedures, called cosmetic otoplasties, happen when a dog is young, six to 12 weeks old. If the dog is older than that, they should be turned down for the surgery, as it may be too painful for them.
The dog is first anesthetized so they’re unconscious and feel no pain. The surgeon will remove an ear part called the pinna.
The pinna is cartilage within the ear that offers entry into the ear canal. As much as two-thirds of the pinna is taken out, leaving very little. Then the surgeon will stitch up the wounds and bandage the ears.
Detaching the pinna alone often isn’t enough to get the stylized ears that Pitbull owners want. That involves training the ears.
To do that, the Pit’s ears will be taped or braced over the next several weeks so the ears naturally learn to stand as desired. It can take as long as four to eight weeks of training before the pitbull’s cropped ears are trained to stand up on their own.
Pitbulls, by the way, are far from the only dog breed whose owners commonly crop their ears. The Schnauzer, Great Dane, Miniature Pinscher, Doberman Pinscher, Boxer, Boston Terrier, and Cane Corso may undergo this surgery as well.
The Pros and Cons of Cutting the Ears of Pitbulls
If your Pitbull is still a puppy, you might be considering cropping his ears. If so, then I strongly implore you to read the next two sections. Here is an extensive list of the pros and cons of cosmetic otoplasty.
- Legal in the United States
In the US, Vermont and New York are working to create respective state bills to make cropping dogs’ ears illegal, but otherwise, it’s allowed countrywide.
- Gives Your Dog the More Traditional Pitbull Look
If you want your Pitbull to look like a Pitbull, that won’t happen naturally. Cropping is the only way to achieve it.
- Goes Against Nature
Animals have evolved over hundreds, sometimes thousands of years in such a way that favors their survival. Few features are extraneous. In the case of a Pitbull, that would include his ears. This breed has long, floppy ears, and when you change that through surgery, you’re going against the dog’s nature.
- Banned in Many Other Parts of the World
In many places around the world, cropping a dog’s ears is banned. Here’s an exhaustive list of places where cropping a dog’s ears is illegal:
|Brazil (unless for functional purposes)|
Yes, that’s nearly every major country except India, Canada, and the US. I told you the list was exhaustive!
India had banned the practice of cropping dog ears but later unbanned it. Canada doesn’t ban the activity, although several provinces have legislation that does.
- Vets Learn Cropping as They Go
When you go to veterinary school, if you’re waiting for the lesson on ear cropping, you’ll have to keep waiting. Cosmetic otoplasty is not taught to vets. That doesn’t mean they can’t do the procedure, as many have and will continue to. What these vets do is learn as they go. Do you really want your dog to be the figurative guinea pig in this scenario?
- Considered a Form of Animal Cruelty
There’s a reason the world overwhelmingly rejects cutting a dog’s ears. This procedure is largely viewed as animal cruelty. The same is true with tail docking, which involves modifying the length of a dog’s tail, often for cosmetic benefits.
Cosmetic otoplasty is a completely unnecessary surgery. Wouldn’t you rather get your puppy spayed or neutered instead of cropping their ears?
- No Guarantee the Procedure Works
Remember, cropping your dog’s ears is a small part surgery and a big part training the dog’s ears to stand upright. In some cases, that doesn’t happen. Since it’s not natural, even with a shorter pinna, your Pit’s ears might flop back down. That can lead to a lot of wasted money and frustration on your part.
Should You Crop Your Pitbull’s Ears?
Looking at that list of pros and cons again, personally, I would say that no, cropping or cutting the ears of your Pitbull is very much not worth it.
Since Pitbull’s ears aren’t long enough to impede their hearing or contribute to additional ear infections, you don’t have to bother with the surgery to crop or cut your pit’s ears. If anything, you put your pitbull’s health at risk by forcing an unnecessary procedure.