Ear cropped Great Dane Great Dane with natural ears

Cropped ears for Great Danes?

There is no practical or medical reason to support cropping

Cropped ears for Great Danes (or any other breed for that matter) is a subject of growing controversy. Right upfront we have to say we don’t support it, although it isn’t hard to find those that do. Ear cropping is actually banned in the UK and most western European countries, but is still common in North America. However, there is a growing number of “Great Daner’s” actively campaigning against this practice.

What does ear cropping entail?

Great Dane ear cropping involves putting the puppy (usually between 8 and 16 weeks old) under a general anesthesia and cutting about 50% of the ear off. The idea is to reshape and sculpture the ears so that they stand straight up, as opposed to the natural condition of hanging.

Once the surgery is completed, the ears then have to be taped upright for at least three months – and sometimes for up to a year – so they develop the upright posture. The tape has to be changed at least weekly and careful observation must be maintained throughout to ensure they are healing properly (no infections) and forming in the desired fashion.

Indeed, they don’t always end up in the desired fashion. Sometimes one stays upright and the other flops. Sometimes both can’t stand, or end up pointing at an angle. But when done properly, there is no question that cropping a Great Dane’s ears does add to the regal look we all love. So why all the fuss?

Origin of ear cropping

Cropping Great Dane ears started in Europe when the Dane was used mostly as a boar hunter. There was no cosmetic motivation behind this at all – it was done to reduce the chances of the Great Dane getting an ear ripped off in a fight with a wild boar. However, the look added so much to the animal’s regal bearing, it quickly became part of the breed standard.

The standard has not evolved much. Even today, when describing the cropped ear it reads that the ears should be:

“identical in shape and length, with pointed tips. They are in balance with the head and not exaggerated in length. They are set high on the skull and carried perpendicularly at the inner edges, with as little bell as possible along the outer edges”

Pro cropper argument

Today, Danes are not used to hunt wild animals and are not bred to fight. So there is no practical reason to have the ears cropped. Pro croppers will say it reduces the chance of infection in the ear canals because cropped ears let light into the canal area – which of course germs don’t like. They will also tell you that cropped ears will reduce the incidence of hematomas – a separation of the ears skin layers where blood collects after vigorous head shaking. Yes, it will reduce that.

Anti ear cropper arguments

The anti croppers will start by pointing out that there is no evidence whatsoever that cropped ears reduce the incidence of ear infection. Your Great Dane is likely to pick these up during its life (we live in a rural environment and ours romps in the woods daily – every spring he usually picks something up because of all the debris that splashes into his ears). The ear canals are huge and easy for debris or bacteria from the environment to get into. Studies now indicate that cropped makes no difference.

So there is no practical or medical reason to crop a Dane’s ears. The truth is, cropping is done because of the look. And again, we fully concede it is a very cool look. But then, a Dane with natural ears is also a head turner!

Let’s be clear about Great Dane ear cropping. This is major surgery. The puppy has to go under general anesthetic and like any major surgery, there is risk and puppies do sometimes die. Because half the ear is literally cut away, there is a chance of infection developing afterwards. And of course, the taping has to be in place for months and must be very carefully monitored. (If too tight, circulation to the ear can be cut off and the ear starts to die.)

Does the puppy like this? Would you?

No one can argue that this isn’t at least uncomfortable for your young Dane for quite a while. Medication can take most of the pain away after surgery, but most agree the Dane will have some pain and be uncomfortable for some time.

It’s also worth pointing out that cropping Great Dane ears is not necessary for your Dane to do well in the show ring. The breed standard also describes the natural ear and many champions have been “au natural”.

In 1999, the American Association of Veterinarians formally called on the American Kennel Association to drop the cropped ear description from all the breed standards concerned. There just simply isn’t a need for this procedure and most would argue putting a puppy through major surgery just so he might get a certain look in the show ring is not an ethical approach to animals.

So, that in a nutshell are the arguments, both for and against for Great Dane ear cropping. We don’t like it. We hope you understand why.

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