There are several breeds of dogs that have long ears and this includes Cocker spaniels and the other spaniel breeds.
There is a very simple reason why Cocker spaniels have long ears and it is nothing to do with hearing.
Cocker spaniels have long ears to help them with scent. Long ears help to capture scent particles when the dog is running and hunting. The movement and action of the ears move these scent particles towards the spaniel’s nose to help him to identify and locate quarry. As a hunting dog your spaniel’s ears are a vital part of his scenting toolkit.
Why do some Cocker spaniels have longer ears than others?
If you were to compare a working Cocker spaniel against a show Cocker spaniel, you would notice some differences in sizes and appearance, and one obvious area is that of ear size.
Due to selective breeding the two types of Cockers have moved apart in terms of ability and appearance – working Cocker breeders have bred for performance, whereas show breeders have bred for looks.
One of the key parameters for show Cockers is length of ears, thus breeders for this purpose have focused on the development of dogs with long ears ( and other areas ). In some cases the ears are almost down to the ground and can be an obstruction to the dog’s movement.
By comparison a working Cocker spaniel will have shorter ears that are more mobile and less likely to interfere with the dog’s hunting.
Do long ears really help with scent?
If we look at a range of dog breeds that are bred for hunting or seeking out quarry then we would find that there is one distinct feature that is common among these types of dogs – long, floppy ears.
All of the spaniels have these types of ears – as hunting dogs they help the dog with his job.
But long ears are not just the reserve of spaniels, many other hunting and scenting dogs benefit from floppy ears – dogs such as:
Although we can never fully understand how scent works for a dog, when we look at a breed such as the Bloodhound and see him sniffing the ground with his ears flopping around his face, it is reasonable to think that long, floppy ears play a part in movement of scent particles towards his nose, improving his chances of tracking his prey.
Like the other hunting and scenting breeds, Cocker spaniels have long ears to help with hunting.
As the dog is hunting with his head down, his ears capture scent and disperse the scent particles that are on the ground, making it easier and more efficient for your spaniel to find his prey.