Different Can Happen in the Same Litter!

A quiz: Three different Rat Terriers appear in the image below. Which one has the correct ears?

Rat Terrier, ears,


Trick question!  The AKC breed standard says that ears in this breed may be upright (far left photo), button (seen in the middle), or tipped, so they are all correct, and in a show ring, without preference. Erect, semi-erect, tipped, or button ears are allowed as long as the shape and carriage match. Not all of them do.

Three-quarters of Rat Terriers have upright ears, but to our knowledge, puppies are all born with their ears standing up. Ears may drop when they open their eyes, and in some pups, the ears return to standing in a few weeks, but most ear carriages don’t stabilize until the youngster reaches adulthood.

Even in the same litter, “Ratties” can end up with different type ears, and that begs the question: Why?

One need only look at the genetic heritage of the Rat Terrier to answer why ears can vary. This all-American breed descended from ratting terriers brought to the United States from England by English miners and working class immigrants.. These breeds included the Manchester Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier, the now extinct White English Terrier, and possibly Whippets, Italian Greyhounds and Beagles to throw in some speed and scenting ability. Given the diversity of the breeds that make up the Rat Terrier, it’s easy to see how pups in the same litter can end up with different ears.

Of importance is where the ears sit, which should be high on the top outer edge of the skull, and be of a length that is in proportion to the head. When viewed from the side, the base of the ear is on line with the outer corner of the dog’s eye.

Whatever their shape, Rat Terriers are usually listening for the next source of excitement. Falling leaves are good. Scurrying rats are better.

Top image: Whimsical Rat Terrier by Svetlana Novikova

Collage photo: 8 week old Rat Terrier by Lisa Turay/Shutterstock; Rat Terrier on boat by Wimbleton/DepositPhoto; Rat Terrier in the middle by RCP Photo/AdobeStock


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