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When you picture a Boxer, they may have cropped ears that stand straight up or they may have natural, drop ears that cover the ear canal. While natural ears are increasing in popularity, cropped ears are still commonly seen in the United States, especially when the breed is shown for conformation.
Why do they crop boxer’s ears?
Cropped ears are intended to give Boxers a more alert, intimidating look and to help prevent the ears from being bitten or grabbed in the event of a fight. The ears are also often cropped to conform to the breed standard though cropped ears are no longer a requirement.
However, these reasons rarely make sense in the modern world and ear cropping should generally be avoided. While the procedure is quick, it does cause unnecessary harm and discomfort for cosmetic reasons which is why many veterinarians and the American Veterinary Medical Association don’t support ear cropping or the similar tail docking procedure.
Why Boxers Have Their Ears Cropped
While the American Kennel Club (AKC) standard allows for either cropped or natural ears, it’s far more common to see a Boxer with cropped ears at dog shows.
Dog shows are meant to showcase dogs as they conform to the breed standards (that’s where the term for showing dogs, conformation, evolves from), but natural, or uncropped, ears are a relatively new breed standard as far as the AKC is concerned. Because of this, judges may be less likely to choose a dog with uncropped ears over a dog with cropped ears, even if they meet the breed standard in every other way.
However, that doesn’t mean your Boxer needs to have cropped ears to succeed in the show ring. Even uncropped ears can bring home the blue ribbons. Just take a look at this natural-eared Boxer winning Best of Group at Crufts in 2011 as proof!
The Boxer was originally bred to hunt bulls and for bull-baiting (a now-banned sport in which the Boxer was, essentially, fighting the bull). Bulls are strong animals that well-outweigh even the most sturdy Boxer. During these hunts and fights, dogs were at risk of having their ears shredded or even torn off by the bull. Cropping the ears was intended to give their opponent less to grab on to in the event of an altercation with a bull.
Ears are delicate and can rip easily, so having them cropped also means they’re more likely to be out of the way. Cropping them keeps the otherwise naturally floppy Boxer ears from falling forward toward the bull or other opponent. This decreases the chances of their ears getting torn or grabbed during a fight.
As Boxers evolved from hunting dogs to guard dogs, their cropped ears continued to play a role in their appearance. However, the ear cropping shifted from functionality to aesthetics.
To many people, Boxers with cropped ears look more intimidating and give the dogs an “on-guard” appearance. The cropped ears sit at the highest point of the skull and have a long, tapered look that makes the Boxer look more alert.
It has been suggested that dogs with cropped ears may be less susceptible to ear infections.
When the ears stand straight, the ear canals are exposed to the air, and moisture is less likely to get trapped. However, the natural drop-ear creates a flap over the ear canal, which could prevent the ear canal from drying out. That trapped moisture could lead to bacterial infections.
Uncropped, natural ears have a flap that drops down over the ear canal while cropped ears stand straight up, leaving the ear canal more open and exposed. Because cropped ears don’t cover the ear canal, it’s believed to improve the dog’s hearing.
While there is no medical research to prove this theory, it’s easy to see why someone would want to ensure their hunting or guard dog has the best possible hearing. If you need to recall your dog quickly, give them commands, or want to be sure they could hear any potential predator or intruder, you’d want to ensure nothing impedes their hearing. Optimal ear positioning certainly plays a key role.
What is Ear Cropping?
So, we’ve been talking about ear cropping, but what exactly is it? Simply, it’s the process of cutting and shaping a dog’s ears and is done at a young age (usually between 6 and 12 weeks). Typically, the end goal is to have the newly reshaped ear stand up straight. This is a surgical procedure and, therefore, is performed by a licensed veterinarian while the dog is under general anesthesia.
After a Boxer’s ears are cropped, the work isn’t done! They’ll require aftercare to ensure proper healing and to prevent infection. This includes taping or posting the ears upright until they can stand on their own.
Is Ear Cropping Illegal?
In some countries, yes. The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and several European and Nordic countries have all banned ear cropping. It’s viewed as cosmetic surgery and, therefore, an unnecessary procedure.
In the United States, the practice is still legal but the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which helps develop and maintain veterinary educational standards, opposes ear cropping for cosmetic purposes. In other words, if there is not a medical reason — such as to prevent infection — for the ear cropping or it’s simply done because it’s the breed standard, the AVMA does not support the practice.
Why You Might Not Want to Have Your Boxer’s Ears Cropped
Although ear cropping may be legal in your country, there still might be plenty of reasons that you choose not to crop your dog’s ears.
While it is a relatively common procedure in the United States, it is still a surgery which means it carries some risks. Even with every precaution, there is the potential for complications from the anesthesia and post-surgical infections.
Unless you’re specifically cropping your Boxer’s ears for safety, this means that ear cropping is an additional and usually unneeded risk.
Ear cropping also does not end with the procedure itself. Aftercare can include cleaning the surgical site, administering topical or oral medications, and taping the ears until they stand on their own. This can take time and patience (after all, happy, goofy Boxer puppies are moving targets who might not want to sit still long enough to have their ears taped).
Impedes the Ear’s Natural Function
When the United Kingdom banned ear cropping in 2006, it cited several reasons why ear cropping was detrimental to dogs. One of their biggest reasons was because it affects the natural movement of the dog’s ears.
Because a dog can’t speak, they show their emotions both to other animals and to us through their body language. One of those communication methods is ear movement.
It’s relatively easy to tell if a Boxer with uncropped ears is upset or nervous because they can pin their ears back as a signal. Similarly, they might flatten their ears to show anger or aggression. A boxer with cropped ears loses the ability to do either of these motions because the ears are in a permanently upright position, making it more difficult for them to demonstrate their emotions.
As with any surgical procedure, ear cropping costs money. And, like any cosmetic surgery, it’s a bit of an art. The Boxer’s cropped ears should be long and tapered, beginning with a wider base and the thinnest point being toward the tips. It will cost time to research veterinarians skilled in cropping Boxers’ ears to conform with the breed standard.
Cropping is also typically done before the puppies go to their new homes while the puppies are still under the care of the breeder. Imagine taking the cost of ear cropping and multiplying it by the number of puppies in the litter. That’s going to add up quickly!
And the cost of that will likely be reflected in the price of the puppies. Even if a puppy with uncropped ears costs the same as a puppy with cropped ears, the breeder themselves is saving money and postoperative-care time by foregoing ear crops for their litters.
Not required for Dog Shows
Both the AKC and the United Kennel Club (UKC) permit cropped and natural ears as the breed standard. So, you can successfully show a Boxer with uncropped ears in both AKC and UKC Conformation. In fact, it’s less common to see Boxers with cropped ears in the UKC show rings — likely due to the ear cropping ban in the United Kingdom. Since it’s less common in UKC and not even permitted in the FCI, judges will likely prefer a dog with natural ears because it conforms more closely with the common look of Boxers in the region.
The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) breed standard states that the Boxer should have natural ears of appropriate size. If you wanted to show your Boxer in the international FCI, a Boxer with cropped ears would be at a severe disadvantage in the show ring and isn’t likely to bring home any blue ribbons.
While the breed has, historically, had cropped ears, there is now less of a functional need for it. Decide what you want from your Boxer and how cropped or uncropped ears play a role in those expectations. Whether for aesthetics or functional reasons, the decision whether or not to crop your Boxer’s ears is a personal one.