Dog Ear Terminology

German Shepherd DogGerman Shepherd Dog

What is commonly referred to as the dog's ear consists of the lobe of leather cartilage covered on both sides by skin. The outer side is furry and the inner side isĀ  usually smooth. The anatomical structures within the orifice inside the ear, are responsible for the dog being able to hear.


Variations in Airedales' EarsVariations in Airedales' Ears

This page examines the ear lobe which varies from one breed to another in the ears' set, size, shape, thickness, carriage and mobility. These factors, are responsible for the expression of an individual within a particular breed, taking into account the angle at which the dog's ears are viewed.

The carriage of the ears reflects the dog's mood, which can also vary according to the dog's age. For example, a pup's ears can look very different during the teething process!

Ear Set-on

The ear set-on should be considered separately from the shape of the ear lobe itself. The ear set-on is the point where the ear lobe is attached to the skull. This can vary from a point at the top of the skull to a point at the side of the skull. For example the pricked or erect ears of the German Shepherd Dog are set on high on the skull. They are carried upright and almost parallel on the inner edges, but never tilted inwards. They taper to a point and are set-on with the orifice facing the front. In contrast, the dropped ears of breeds like the Bearded Collie are set on low on the skull just above eye level with the orifice facing the side. From there, the ears hang down from the skull.

Pricked or Erect Ears


In contrast, the small, thick textured pricked or erect ears of the Samoyed are rounded at the tips and set on well apart on the skull. The thickness of the cartilage of the ear and the dense hair that covers them, protect them from the cold.

French BulldogFrench Bulldog

The most extreme example of pricked or erect ears that are set on high but are even more rounded at the tips is the French Bulldog. These are so rounded they are commonly known as as 'Bat Ears' because they are shaped like an old style cricket bat.

Semi-Erect Ears

Sometimes also called semi-prick, this refers to an erect ear, with a 'set on' high on the head like ear of the German Shepherd Dog, but with some of the top part of the ear tipping forward. Some Breed Standards like the Collie (Smooth) and (Rough) are quite precise about how much of the ear can tip forward, but others like the Border Collie are not specific at all! In the case of young puppies of some breeds, potentially erect ears can be semi-erect until the teething process is complete.

Collie (Smooth)Collie (Smooth)Tenterfield Terrier puppiesTenterfield Terrier puppies

Button Ears

Fox Terrier (Wire)Fox Terrier (Wire)

Button ears also are 'set on' high like the erect or semi-erect ear, but most of the ear lobe is folded forward. This causes the ear to sit well above the level of the skull, with the tipsĀ  pointing towards the eyes. The leather of the ear then covers the orifice, protecting the ear canal from the earth flying from the tunnels when the dog is digging.

Side Placement Ears

Airedale TerrierAiredale Terrier

Side placement ears like those of the Airedale Terrier, are usually physically larger and thicker than button ears of the Wire Fox Terrier. But side placement ears, although set lower on the skull than the button ear, should still be carried above the level of the skull but point towards the ground. Other breeds where side placement ears are required include the Parson Russell Terrier.

Rose-shaped Ears

Rose shaped ears have small, relatively thin leathers which fold backwards so you can see the inside or burr of the ear. These ears are called 'rose' because they resemble the petal of the rose.

Staffordshire Bull TerrierStaffordshire Bull Terrier

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier's and Bulldog's rose-shaped ears are set on high at the back of the skull. Historically this type of ear protected the leather of the ear from damage by dog's opponent when they were involved in a dog fight. Today, their rose shaped ears complemented by their round shaped eyes, adds to the their soft expression.


The Whippet and other Sight Hounds were bred to run at high speed in a double suspension gallop. So their ears are set on low, so when the dog is galloping, they 'streamline' the dog.

Dropped Ears

Bearded CollieBearded Collie

Dropped, pendulous or pendant ears are the opposite of erect ears and hang straight down from the head. There can be a small amount of lift at the back of the ear, but if they are required to be set on low, they should never fold above the level of the skull for example the Bearded Collie (pictured).

Hungarian VizslaHungarian Vizsla

However, some breeds like Utility Gundogs have lobular shaped dropped ears which are set on high'. Examples of these are the German Shorthaired Pointer, the Hungarian Vizsla (pictured) and the Weimaraner.