Saturday, September 19, 2009

Photo Phriday: What's Up With These Ears?

Sam had the bad luck to be bought as a young puppy and registered with the United Kennel Club as "Kapsa's Shep."  It appears that she sold a lot of his offspring, or at least, pups with his name listed as sire. He's got a great temperament and is a lovely individual.  He also has a wry jaw and absolutely atrocious teeth, and an extra set of floating ribs.  (Hint: not breeding stock in the sane world.)  He likes to carry a ball at all times, and I wonder if this isn't because it is more comfortable than closing his jaws.  At least one of his sons rescued through Operation New Beginnings seems to have inherited the jaw deformity.

He also has a split in one ear pinna.  Normally I would assume that such a feature was due to trauma, probably fighting.  But it appears we have a mystery

There are two males that we are sure are Sons of Sam.  Here is the left ear of one of them:

The other ear is the same.

The other son is fostering at my house, and has a single split in one pinna, just like Sam's.

And this bitch could well be a Sam daughter:

It was Fancy's perfectly symmetrical split pinnae that first caught my attention, on the day that Sam, Fancy, Bruno and Max (now Barry White) were all neutered.

I am convinced that it is a congenital deformity, though I've never heard of such a thing being a genetic defect in dogs.  The head vet tech working that day is just as convinced that "someone" cut the ears when these dogs were pups, in order to "mark" them.

Anyone have any ideas?


  1. Hmmm, I suppose it could well be a mutation. I don't think you would know for sure unless you did some test breeding or could locate any more relatives with split ears.

    I'm way cynical and if this was a mutation I bet that some people would look at it as an opportunity to create a special new breed (Split Eared Shepherd?) and even create reasons for why this mutation is advantageous & critical for the breed (permits better aerodynamics for faster running? or the flappy ear bits distract the sheep?).

  2. Hola! My fab' rescue dawg, Freddie, has multiple scars inside his ears. I've only seem this where ticks were not removed immediately and the animal scratched and tried to dislodge them, usually unsuccessfully.

    My guess with the dogs you're mentioning is that some knuckledragger got cute and used the porcine method of ear notches for marking the birth date and gender of these pups. From what's come to light about the rest of the case, my guess would be that some attempt was made to get these ES' to play the banjo with their toes! (Flannery O'Connor had a bit to say about such folks.)

    ES' are pretty damned resilient and there should be permanent haloes on the volunteers who assisted in rescue in the Kapsa Kase. Freddie is busily working at restructuring our farm and streamlining tasks. He continues to be the pal and work hand usually only found in fiction. ESR, you go!

  3. I have nothing productive to contribute, I just want to say that I love Fancy's little spot on the top of her head and I think it needs kissing. I love lozenge-markings.

  4. Well, Sam is down as being by Vetaly's Grizzley Bear out of Tillie - both have many relatives in the breed and none, that I know of, have ears like those.

    I thought of the cuts livestock breeders use the minute I saw Sam's ears and I still think that's the most likely explanation.


  5. This immediately reminded me of the notches put into hogs ear to 'number' them.


  6. I pretty much agree with everyone else...after looking at the pics I was all excited to hop on the academic journal databases and look for more information, but I remembered ear-notching too as a means of ID. If this lady had that many dogs, it probably really was a way to keep track of litters, genders, pedigree, etc. Or, heaven forbid, for how 'individual' and 'cool' it looked (ugh).

    I can still look at research documents to see what all is out there on congenital ear deformities (if there is anything), but I think everyone else here has it pegged.

  7. The thing is, no ear notches (that I know of) in any other dogs of other lineages. Or any other permanent marks.

    And the ear notches are some the same, some different, between individuals.

    And plus, you can't even see them (on account of ES have fuzzy ears) unless you are already handling the dog quite intimately.

    And Fancy's are absolutely perfectly symmetrical. I just don't see how it would be possible to do it that perfectly.

    And, ear-notch puppies, yes, but never remove the floppiest of rear dewclaws? (I want Cole's dewks of death OFF. They give me the willies, especially when he's climbing all over stuff, which is all the time.)

    I just don't know.

    On the other hand, I'm trying to make this make sense,, and I guess I should know better.

    I do plan to ask Sam's breeder about both the ear and his wry jaw, when I can do so without seeming to be accusatory.

    I think that wry jaw is one of those defects that sometimes doesn't show in a young pup, but develops as the jaw grows.

  8. ChrisJ -- there won't be any test breedings, as ALL the gonads went into the biohazard bags. I watched it happen.

    However, Fancy had four gorgeous pups born in custody, and I can ask their adopters to check ear leathers.

    No notches won't prove anything, but notches would be a slam-dunk.

    What we were worried about with this colony was the "rare miniature English shepherd," as we are looking at males barely more than thirty pounds in many instances, and a couple females that didn't make twenty!

    Turns out, though, if you feed pregnant and nursing dams, and if you feed the pups, the "miniature" goes away.

    Funny thing, that.

    My foster #1, about 4-6 weeks old at the seizure, probably won't top 35 pounds when he's done growing, despite having been mostly raised in custody and, you know, fed.

  9. I think that the notching idea is unlikely in this case - if that were an ID system she used, you'd see notches on most of the dogs. Or most of one generation, if it were something she tried for a while.

    More likely, she never noticed or you would have seen her marketing "rare fringe eared English Shepherds".

    Or, make that "rare fringe eared MINIATURE English Shepherds".

    Having fostered my share of "miniature Great Danes" over the years, I can relate to how magically that changes with the application of some good groceries. We even had some young dogs over one year of age actually do quite a bit of true growing once they got fed.

  10. Just a quibble -- congenital doesn't mean an inherited condition. From Wikipedia:

    "Congenital disorder involves defects in or damage to a developing fetus. It may be the result of genetic abnormalities, the intrauterine (uterus) environment, errors of morphogenesis, or a chromosomal abnormality. The outcome of the disorder will further depend on complex interactions between the pre-natal deficit and the post-natal environment.[1] Congenital disorders vary widely in causation and abnormalities. Any substance that causes birth defects is known as a teratogen. The older term congenital [2] disorder does not necessarily refer to a genetic disorder despite the similarity of the words."

    If these pups were inbred, it's even more likely that this was a mutation that was inheritable.

  11. It made me think of Chinese Beagle Syndrome:

    It would be interesting to track the health of the notched eared dogs to see if anything develops.

  12. I had the pleasure of escorting Mizz Fancy to her new home on a 1.5 day road trip. I noticed her ears when we stopped for a well-deserved break after a long leg of the journey. She was willing to let me pet her extensively at that point and my first thought was that she had cut her ear on the crate somehow (Fancy had a real issue with confinement/crate). Expected to find blood somewhere, but nothing. I was too road weary to notice the symmetry of the splits. I just figured they were injuries as the result of her trying to break out of a welded wire enclosure in her previous life. It wouldn't surprise me at all if that was how she sustained her broken teeth and the damage to her nose; the wires of the crate door matched up perfectly to the scars and indentations on her nose.

    She's safe and comfortable in her new home with a family that has a soft spot for older ES in need. Enjoy the good life, Mizz Fancy Pants.

  13. Uh, Gang? There's another, very dark possibility.

    All of us at some point in this debacle turned hopeful thanks to NESR and the volunteers, have tried to reason, interpret and find logic in a hideous saga of abuse and insanity. Stop! We are using a template of logic where there simply is none.

    Now then. My suspicion is that a human did indeed make the "notches". For some sick entertainment, code, pastime or whatever their afternoon whittling demanded. I saw something awful like this right outside the main gate to Ft. Benning, way back when. Puppies, a knife and abuse.

    Break the spell, Heather, and all of you! And keep animals free from the fear and aberrant behavior they've had imposed on them --stuffed toys only for any sicko who harms, starves, hurts...You know the drill.

    Freddy's tail is wagging so hard it makes a breeze and thumps the old wooden floor of the farm kitchen. He's spotted the St. Andre' brie going into the evening pasta, fresh tomato, garlic and herb concoction. Gotta go. He's trying to levitate the dish! Ah, guilt rays! ES' can dispense them so adeptly!


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