Cropping (animal)

Cropping (animal)
A Dogo Guatemalteco with cropped ears

Cropping is the removal of part or all of the pinnae or auricles, the external visible flap of the ear, of an animal. Most commonly performed on dogs, it is an ancient practice that was once done for perceived health, practical or cosmetic reasons. In modern times, it is banned in many nations, but where legal, it is usually performed for cosmetic reasons, usually related to show grooming. It is seen only certain breeds of dog such as the Pit bull, Doberman Pinscher, Schnauzer, Great Dane and Boxer.

The veterinary procedure is known as cosmetic otoplasty. Current veterinary science provides no medical, physical, environmental or cosmetic advantage to the animal from the procedure,[1][2] leading to concerns over animal cruelty related to performing unnecessary surgery on the animals. In addition to the bans in place in countries around the world, it is described in some veterinary texts as "no longer considered ethical."[1]

Cropping of large portions of the pinnae of other animals is rare, although the clipping of identifying shapes in the pinnae of livestock, called earmarks, were common prior to the introduction of compulsory ear tags.[3] The practice of cropping for cosmetic purposes is rare in non-canines, although some selectively bred animals have naturally small ears which can be mistaken for cropping.


History and purposes

The Duncombe Dog, a 2nd century AD Roman copy of a Hellenistic bronze, probably of the 2nd century BC and from Epirus, showing cropped ears

Ear cropping has been performed on dogs since ancient times.[4]

Traditional cropping

Historically, cropping was performed on dogs that might need to fight, either while hunting animals that might fight back or while defending livestock herds from predators, or because they were used for pit-fighting sports such as dogfighting or bear-baiting.[5][6] The ears were an easy target for an opposing animal to grab or tear.[5]

Cropping the ears of livestock guardian dogs was, and may still be, traditional in some pastoral cultures. The ears of working flock-defense dogs such as the Caucasian Shepherd Dog (Kavkazskaïa Ovtcharka)[7] and the Pastore Maremmano-Abruzzese were traditionally cropped to reduce the possibility of wolves or aggressor dogs getting a hold on them.[8] According to one description, cropping was carried out when puppies were weaned, at about six weeks. It was performed by an older or expert shepherd, using the ordinary blade shears used for shearing, well sharpened. The ears were cut either to a point like those of a fox, of rounded like those of a bear. The removed auricles were given to the puppy to eat, in the belief that it would make him more "sour";[8] the ears were first grilled.[9] An alternative method was to remove the ears from newly-born puppies by twisting them off; however, this left almost no external ear on the dog.[8] Cropping was done to improve the dogs' chance of survival in combat with wolves and other predators; they wore heavy spiked iron collars for the same reason.[8] Three hundred years earlier, both ear-cropping and the use of spiked collars were described as a defense against wolves by Jean de la Fontaine in Fable 9 of Book X of the Fables, published in 1678.[10]

Dogs may have their ears cropped, legally or not, for participation in dogfights, themselves illegal in many jurisdictions.[11]

Cosmetic cropping

Boxers with natural and cropped ears and docked tails

In the last 100 years or so, ear cropping has been performed more often for cosmetic purposes.[6][12] In nations and states where it remains legal, it is usually practiced because it is required as part of a breed standard for exhibition at dog shows.[12] There is no medical reason for cosmetic cropping,[1][4] although some claim that cropping prevents infection of the ear,[5] or that cropped ears enhance an animal's hearing.[13]

A Doberman Pinscher puppy with its ears taped to train them into the desired shape and carriage after cropping

The veterinary procedure is known as "cosmetic otoplasty".[1] It is usually performed on puppies at 7 to 12 weeks of age.[14] After 16 weeks, the procedure is more painful and the animal has greater pain memory.[5] Up to 2/3 of the ear flap may be removed in a cropping operation, and the wound edges are closed with stitches. The ears are then bandaged and taped until they heal into the proper shape, though some do not stand upright, necessitating the operation to be redone.[14] While advocates of cropping downplay pain concerns, particularly in young puppies, both surgical and post-operative pain are believed to occur, and pain medication is not always provided.[4]

American veterinary schools do not generally teach cropping and docking, and thus veterinarians who perform the practice have to learn on the job.[4] There are also problems with amateurs performing ear-cropping, particularly at puppy mills.[4] Amateur cropping is not illegal in the United States. However, the Indiana Appellate Court described a situation that escalated into a prosecutable animal cruelty case in these terms:

"During the procedure, Elisea had an assistant bind the dogs' legs and mouths with tape. Once immobilized, Elisea marked a line along each ear with an eyeliner pencil and, after numbing the ears with ice, but without any anesthetic, cut the dogs' ears with a pair of office scissors. Vaseline and Bactine were placed on each cut, and Elisea told [the owner] to keep the puppies outside in the cold because their ears would heal more quickly."[15]

In the USA, although tail-docking remains common, ear-cropping is declining, save within the dog show industry.[12] However, many show ring competitors state they would discontinue the practice altogether if they could still "win in the ring."[16]

Animal welfare and law

The practice is illegal across most of Europe, including all countries that have ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, and most member countries of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale.[17] It is illegal in parts of Spain and in some Canadian provinces.[12] The situation in Italy is unclear; the ban effective 14 January 2007 may no longer be in force.[18]

Ear-cropping is still widely practiced in the United States and parts of Canada, with the American and Canadian Kennel Clubs both permitting the practice.[12] The American Kennel Club (AKC) position is that ear cropping and tail docking are "acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health."[19] While some individual states have attempted to ban ear-cropping,[20] There is strong opposition from some dog breed organizations, who cite health concerns and tradition.[13]

The American Veterinary Medical Association "opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes" and "encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards".[21] Specifically, the AVMA "has recommended to the American Kennel Club and appropriate breed associations that action be taken to delete mention of cropped or trimmed ears from breed standards for dogs and to prohibit the showing of dogs with cropped or trimmed ears if such animals were born after some reasonable date".[1] Some national chains of veterinary hospitals have voluntarily ceased to perform cosmetic surgeries on dogs.[16] The American Humane Association opposes ear-cropping "unless it is medically necessary, as determined by a licensed veterinarian".[22]

It has been suggested the cropping may interfere with a dog's ability to communicate using ear signals; there has been no scientific comparative study of ear communication in cropped and uncropped dogs.[23]

Status by country

Country Status Ban/restriction date (if applicable)
Afghanistan Unrestricted[citation needed]
Argentina Unrestricted[citation needed]
Australia Banned [24]
Austria Banned 1 January 2005[25]
Belgium Banned[25]
Bolivia Unrestricted[citation needed]
Brazil Banned for cosmetic purposes[25]
Canada Banned in Newfoundland and Labrador (1), New Brunswick (2)[25] and Nova Scotia[citation needed] (1) 1978 (2) 15 October 2008
Chile Unrestricted[citation needed]
Colombia Unclear
Croatia Banned[25]
Cyprus Banned[25] 1993
Czech Republic Banned[citation needed]
Denmark Banned[24] 1 June 1996
Egypt Unrestricted[citation needed]
England Banned 1899[26]
Estonia Banned[25] 2001
Finland Banned 1 July 1996 [27]
France Banned 4 August 2003[25]
Germany Banned[28] 1 May 1992
Greece Banned[25] 1992
Hungary Banned[25]
Iceland Banned[25] 2001
India Unrestricted[citation needed]
Indonesia Unrestricted[citation needed]
Ireland Banned[citation needed]
Israel Banned[28] 2000
Italy Banned or unclear[citation needed]
Kuwait Unrestricted[citation needed]
Latvia Banned[25]
Lebanon Unrestricted[citation needed]
Lithuania Banned[25]
Luxembourg Banned[25] 1991[29]
Malaysia Unrestricted[citation needed]
Morocco Unrestricted - Morocco has no animal protection laws[citation needed]
Mauritius Unrestricted[citation needed]
Mexico Unrestricted[citation needed]
Nepal Unrestricted[citation needed]
Netherlands Banned[25] 1 September 2001
New Zealand Banned[24] 2004
Northern Ireland Banned[25] 2011
Norway Banned[24] 1987
Peru Unrestricted[citation needed]
Philippines Unrestricted[citation needed]
Poland Banned[25] 1997
Portugal Banned[citation needed]
Romania Banned[25] 2008
Russia Restricted[citation needed]
Scotland Banned[25] 1899[26]
Slovakia Banned[25] 1 January 2003
Slovenia Banned[30] April 2007
South Africa Banned[25] June 2008
Spain Banned in autonomies of Barcelona and Andalucia[25]
Sri Lanka Unrestricted[citation needed]
Sweden Banned[25] 1989
Switzerland[25] Banned 1997
Taiwan Unrestricted[citation needed]
United States Unrestricted (some states, including New York,[20] and Vermont
have considered bills to make the practice illegal)
Virgin Islands Banned[25] 2005
Wales Banned[25] 1899[26]

Naturally small ears

Some animals, such as the Lamancha goat, have ears which are naturally small as the result of selective breeding, and some people mistakenly believe their ears to be cropped.[31][32][33]

In other animals, small ears may result from a genetic mutation or the emergence of a genetically recessive trait, such as in Highland cattle, where the appearance of small ears, appearing to have its pinnae cropped, is viewed as a defect.[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Slatter, Douglas H. (2002) Textbook of small animal surgery 3rd edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders (imprint of Elsevier Health Sciences), 2896 pages, ISBN 9780721686073, p.1746
  2. ^ "Ear Cropping: Is it right for your dog?". Pet MD. 
  3. ^ Lexique Camarguais (in French) Manade Devaux. "Lexicon of Camargue terms" Accessed September 2011
  4. ^ a b c d e Broughton, Amy L. (2003) Cropping and Docking: A Discussion of the Controversy and the Role of Law in Preventing Unnecessary Cosmetic Surgery on Dogs Michigan State University - Detroit College of Law. Accessed September 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d Ear Cropping: Correct or Cruel? Briarlea Bouvier Kennel. Accessed September 2011.
  6. ^ a b Murgai, Major R.P. (1996) Handbook on Dogs New Delhi: New Age International, p.46
  7. ^ Samsonova, Anna Caucasian Shepherd Dog (Kavkazskaïa Ovtcharka) Fédération Cynologique Internationale FCI-Standard N° 328, 2 February 2011. Accessed September 2011
  8. ^ a b c d Breber, Paolo (1983) Il Cane da Pastore Maremmano-Abruzzese (in Italian) 2nd edition. Firenze: Olimpia "The Maremmano-Abruzzese shepherd dog" pp.98–99
  9. ^ MacDonell, Anne, Amy Atkinson (ill.) (1907) In the Abruzzi New York: F.A. Stokes p. 18
  10. ^ Wright, Elizur (trans.), Jean de la Fontaine (1862) The fables of La Fontaine, translated [in verse] from the French London: Miller p.74
  11. ^ Curtis, Patricia (2002) City dog: choosing and living well with a dog in town New York: Lantern Books ISBN 9781590560006 p.37
  12. ^ a b c d e Ear cropping and tail docking The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies/Fédération des sociétés canadiennes d'assistance aux animaux (CFHS/FSCAA). Accessed September 2011.
  13. ^ a b American Kennel Club Gazette, January 1993 American Boxer Club. Accessed September 2011
  14. ^ a b Practice of Dogs Ear cropping [sic] Doggie's Paradise. Accessed September 2011
  15. ^ Indiana Court of Appeals: Elisea v. State, Indiana 777 N.E.2d 46 (Ind. App. 2002) Animal Legal and Historical Center. Accessed September 2011.
  16. ^ a b Weise, Elizabeth 'Banfield pet hospitals ban tail docking, ear cropping on dogs' USA Today, 30 July 2011. Accessed September 2011.
  17. ^ Fogle, Bruce. K-I-S-S Guide to Living with a Dog Stop the Crops. Accessed September 2011
  18. ^ Cani pericolosi, l'ordinanza della Turco "Stop al taglio di orecchie e coda" (in Italian) La Repubblica, 15 January 2007. Accessed September 2011. "Dangerous dogs, the ordinance of Turco: 'stop the cutting of ears and tails' "
  19. ^ Ear Cropping, Tail Docking and Dewclaw Removal American Kennel Club Canine Legislation Position Statements
  20. ^ a b "NEW CALL TO ACTION FOR AMENDED NY STATE CROP/DOCK BILL". American Kennel Club. 9 June 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-31. 
  21. ^ Ear Cropping and Tail Docking of Dogs American Veterinary Medical Association, November 2008. Accessed September 2011
  22. ^ Ear cropping The American Humane Association. Accessed September 2011.
  23. ^ Coren, Stanley (2001) How to speak dog: mastering the art of dog-human communication New York: Simon & Schuster ISBN 9780743202978 chap. 9 [pages unnumbered]
  24. ^ a b c d "Ear cropping and tail docking". Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. 
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Δικτυακός Τόπος Διαβουλεύσεων (Website consultation) (mostly in English) Υπουργείο Αγροτικής Ανάπτυξης και Τροφίμων (Ministry of Rural Development and Food, Athens, Greece), April 2011. Accessed September 2011.
  26. ^ a b c Johnston, Beatrice L. (1970) For those who cannot speak: a history of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 1869-1969 City of Laval, P.Q.: Dev-Sco Publications p.13
  27. ^ Finnish Animal Protection Law (in Finnish)
  28. ^ a b A review of the scientific aspects and veterinary opinions relating to tail docking in dogs
  29. ^ WSAVA Tail Docking Position Statement
  30. ^ [1] Slovene Animal Protection Act (in slovene language)
  31. ^ Woods, Dale L.; Hendrickson, Pat (1978), The American Lamancha, and its Ears., Dairy Goat Journal, 
  32. ^ "Fun Trivia:Goats" Accessed September 19, 2011.
  33. ^ " What did we do to its ears?"Accessed September 19, 2011.
  34. ^ Crop Ear. what does it look like? Cruachan Highland Cattle. Accessed September 2011.]

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