Why Do Dogs Have Floppy Ears?

Darwin says Domestication Syndrome could be the reason for different ears.

By Justyne Yuen-Lee


Do your ears hang low? Do they wobble to and fro?

The American Kennel Club recognizes over 192 dog breeds, in all different shapes, lengths, and sizes. You can spot the differences all the way down to the shapes of their ears – floppy or pointed! The floppy-eared doggies run with their tails wagging and ears flapping with every bounce. This is in contrast to cats and other domesticated species, such as cows, horses, or even guinea pigs – that have erect ears.

Darwin’s Intrigue


Charles Darwin noticed that wild animals used their ears to catch passing sounds. The only droopy-eared animal, according to his research, was the elephant. He pondered the association between hearing and stature of ear.


The only sound pups at home need to hear is the treat bag rustling!

This left him with the conclusion, “The incapacity to erect the ears is certainly in some manner the result of domestication.”

Darwin noted that it wasn’t only ears that were uniquely useless or hindered in domesticated animals, but that these animals also tended toward shorter snouts, smaller jaws and teeth, and lighter coats with more splotches. He named this phenomenon “domestication syndrome.”


Darwin believed there had to be some kind of reason for this syndrome, but could not create a link. This left future scientists to find the answer!

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