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One Hundred Years On (or ‘Bloody’ Ears)


Originally published in Highlights, 1996 | By Peter Eva


It is difficult to accept now in 1996 that it is only 100 years since the barbaric practice of cutting ears on dogs was officially banned in the British Isles. Unfortunately, it is still practiced in other parts of the world, but one hopes that compas- sion, good sense and a civilized attitude will mean that in these other countries they too will see that their actions cannot continue and come to appre- ciate that a dog’s expression and appearance is better for the natural ears.


It was in response to a motion by none other than King Edward VII that the Kennel Club in late- 1895 stopped ear cropping in pedigree dogs. On the 9th of April 1898 it was outlawed completely and dogs were no longer able to be shown with cropped ears. The measure was adopted by the veterinary association of the time and surgeons were no longer allowed by their professional code to undertake these operations. Whilst not the law of the land, it would be impossible for a profes- sional to carry out such an operation.


It is worth comparing the current debate on tail docking which is carried out when the puppy is born or shortly after, before the central nervous system is fully developed and the puppy is blind and deaf and no pain is felt. Ear cropping is car- ried out of full grown dog in much pain and the healing process can be prolonged. The look of the dog after the ear is cut changes as well, in my opinion, as giving the dog a more aggressive ap- pearance, which is the last thing one should con- sider as beneficial to the breed or dogs in general. Particularly in the UK where the anti-dog lobby does get support from some quarters. It must not


be overlooked that the edict promoted by the King applied to all dogs and other breeds claim, par- ticularly terrier breeds, the credit for instigating the ban.


The effect on the Manchester Terrier was dev- astating. Having already experienced pressures imposed by the complicated colour points, the breeders were only just coming to terms with strictures of the KC breed standard, the introduc- tion of the ban on ear cropping made breeding even more difficult. It would be a similar disaster for some other pedigree breeds if a total ban on tail docking was adopted by the KC; because who now could predict how a Boxer, Cocker, etc. tail is carried and what should be included in the stan- dard. The permutations are endless. The breeders should have to breed to a precise singular ‘tail’ and the danger of losing other more important characteristics and quality is a real one.


The Manchester Terrier interests adopted the dropped ear, while the English Toy Terrier people went for the upright ear. Both breeds have experi- enced problems getting it 100% right every time, but with careful matching of their bitches and stud dog this is constantly improving. Over the years, it has cost the breed a lot in other areas as to fix the colour pattern and the ear changes, sometime conformation and their fore movement has been sacrificed to a point that, unlike any other terrier breed that one normally sees in the ring, the move- ment cannot be said to be universally sound. It is so rare that when put before most specialist judges a good moving MT can be passed over, contribut- ing to putting the breed back another generation.


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