Furry ears! Floppy ears. Pointy ears. Short, long, floppy, pointy ear. Ears are essential to many animals and come in various shapes and sizes. Every animal needs a good pair of ears to help them hear its surroundings and locate food. They also attach highly to the brainstem. So it is no surprise that animals with exceptionally long ears have impressive hearing abilities.
Animals with long ears have drastically different hearing abilities than those with short ears. It gets even more interesting when you look at how animals with other types of ears function. This post covers everything from the function of animal ears to why some are so much longer or floppier than others.
Bilbies, also known as banded hare-wallabies and kangaroos, are members of the family Biliidae and placed within the marsupial order. Bilby is the only member of the genus Macrotis. This marsupial is one of the smallest and most primitive of Australia’s three lemur-like endangered mammals. “Bilby” comes from the aboriginal word “bilbrie,” meaning “noisy” (ref).
Their ears are one of the most noticeable features. It is long and tapered, giving the Bilby an appearance of a big head on a little body. It is believed that their large ears help them locate food. The Bilby has a unique system for hearing low frequencies and locating prey. This allows it to find food underground and avoid predators who may be hunting for them (ref).
2. Bated-eared fox
They are adorable members of the fox family native to the African savanna. These foxes have a unique feature: extra-long and floppy ear flaps. They eat small rodents and insects and are popular pets in some regions of Russia but protected elsewhere. These little foxes mate for life, making them a great addition to an animal family.
The ears of the Bated-eared Fox are long and have a distinctive white tip. They are also fringed with long black guard hairs, which are longer than the fur of the rest of the coat. The outer edge and tip of a bated-eared fox’s ear are well adapted for the precise location of prey.
3. African Elephant
African Elephants are the largest land animal on earth. African elephants are tall and incredibly strong but also surprisingly intelligent. These amazing animals can weigh up to 7 tonnes and grow to be over 11 feet tall at their shoulders, living over 50 years.
Elephant ears are big, powerful, and expressive! Their ears can pick up sounds at both low and high frequencies. They also use them for cooling. The longer the ears flap, the more they cool themselves. Elephants use their ears to hear and communicate with one another.
4. Basset Hound
The Basset Hound is a short-legged dog of the hound family and one of six recognized Basset breeds in France. It is commonly called the “stuffy” dog because it has a distinctively wrinkled face, and its short legs give it an unusual gait.
Bassets have long ears that are floppy and hang down near their feet. It is a lot like the hound’s nose in that it works to pick up scents so they can track animals and lost people. They also have a sensitive hearing because their ears are connected directly to their brain, letting them hear miles away.
The caracal, or caracal cat, is an African wildcat domesticated by Egyptians. It has black fur with white markings that resemble a cheetah. Caracals are solitary hunters that pounce on their prey from a standstill, killing it with a bite to the throat. They are territorial animals but enjoy playing and grooming.
Caracals have large ears with large muscles and tendons to enhance their hearing sensitivity. Their wide-set ears also protect against heat loss and glare. Caracals’ ears can rotate 180 degrees, letting them locate the exact location of a sound and see behind them at all times.
The Serval is a wild cat found in Africa. It is one of the most distinctive members of the family Felidae because of its slender build, long legs, and large ears. The name “serval” originated in the 17th century from the French word “serpent”. Some Servals have a yellowish tinge to their fur, which could be gold or yellow.
The Serval’s large ears help them keep cool and also help them to hear prey moving through the grass in tall grasses and thick bush. Their ears are longer and larger than most cats, and it is believed that they can pinpoint the exact location of prey, even under dense vegetation. Their excellent hearing is due to the width of their pinnae, which can be almost twice as wide as those of a domestic cat. They also have larger size auditory bullae and a rounder external shape.
7. Elephant Shrew
The elephant shrew is a small insectivore native to Africa. It has a slender body, short legs, and large ears. A skilled hunter, an elephant shrew, can make lethal thrusts with its long claws, which are its primary means of defense. The shrew likes to forage for termites in the morning and evening hours and is also known to be attracted to humans and other large animals (ref).
The elephant shrew has long ears that can rotate in all directions to locate prey. They can move their ears independently so they can hear in 2 different directions at once. Their ears also help them stay cool, so they can sit in the sun all day without overheating!
8. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit
The Jackrabbit is a species of hare native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. Jackrabbits are very athletic animals and can jump 2 m in a single bound, run at speeds of 55 km/h, and accelerate from 0 to 48 km/h in just 6 seconds. There are two subspecies of Jackrabbit – the black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) and the white-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii).
The Jackrabbit’s long, powerful ears help to dissipate excess body heat so they don’t overheat in their hot desert habitat. They also have a great hearing to help them keep an eye out for predators like coyotes, hawks, and eagles. They have some of the best hearing of any mammal and can hear frequencies most humans can’t detect!
9. Bracco Italiano
The Bracco’s ears are unique and sensitive. They are the longest of any dog breed and are also the widest. Their ears lay flat against the face, which makes them prized species for police work. The Bracco is a very old and respected breed of dog in Italy.
The Bracco’s ears are so long and mobile that it can use them to communicate. Dogs can express complex messages to other dogs through ear position, motion, and positioning; the information carried by their ears is very meaningful. If a dog is scared of something or feels threatened, it will hold its ears high and forward like a rabbit.
The aye-aye is an arboreal primate, most closely related to lemurs, and is found in Madagascar. Despite its name, the aye-aye is not a true lemur; it lacks Lemurid characteristics such as cheek pouches and the ability to glide through trees by spreading webbing between its heel and toe. It has been suggested that the term “aye-aye” be applied only to members of Djebelemur, a genus within its own family.
The aye-aye has large ears, which have the deepest external muscles among mammal and bird species, allowing the animal to hear in very low and high-frequency ranges. Its long tail, capable of being coiled eight times, helps to dissipate heat from its body.
11. Leaf-Nosed Bat
Leaf-nosed bats are a group of bats that have large, complex nose leaves. These species are in the family Hipposideridae and are very small in size. They have large ears and eyes that aid in their nocturnal lifestyle. Leaf-nosed bats rely on echolocation to find prey and navigate in their nighttime habitat.
The leaf-nosed bat has large ears that act as heat exchangers, reducing heat loss at night. The external anatomy of the leaf-nosed bat provides it with a particular type of echolocation that allows the animal to move objects and sense the presence of prey at long distances. They have extremely sensitive ears, which enable them to pinpoint prey, even in pitch darkness. They can hear and identify airborne insects as they vibrate their wings.
12. Wild Dog
Wild dog ears are very large and erect, similar to a wolf’s. They have a thin but dense fur coat to protect against cold weather, and their large nose also dissipates excess body heat, which is an advantage in desert environments.
They are generally considered the most social species of dogs, living in small packs of parents and their offspring.
The ears of the wild dog are large to dissipate excess body heat, which is an advantage in a hot desert environment. The adult can regulate body temperature by changing the blood flow through its nasal cavity and ears. Still, it prefers to rest in shaded areas during the day to avoid overheating. Wild dogs have a complex social system in which individual groups of a sexually-fragmented social unit consisting of one adult pair, their recent offspring, and perhaps some older offspring hunt together.
13. Fennec fox
Fennec foxes are adorable little animals. They have huge, bat-like ears. Their big ears help them keep cool in their hot desert habitat and can even close down to reduce the amount of heat that gets inside them. Fennec foxes also have a thick furry tail, which helps to keep their bodies warm during cold nights.
Ears are an incredible organ, and these animals prove it! Their ears are so huge for a variety of reasons. Some animals need bigger ears for camouflage, whereas others require them to cool down their bodies. Several species use their ears to help them hunt or navigate their way through their habitat.