Why Do Scent Hounds Have Long Floppy Ears?

By: John Perritano  | 
Trumpet the bloodhound
Trumpet the bloodhound, seen here with his owner and handler, Heather Helmer, won Best in Show at the 146th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show June 22, 2022. Look at those ears! Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A floppy-eared bloodhound named Trumpet won the coveted Best in Show title at the Westminster Dog Show June 22, 2022. Trumpet is the first bloodhound to win top honors at what's considered the crème de la crème of dog shows. Trumpet's handler and owner, Heather Helmer, proudly played with Trumpet's droopy facial folds and long, floppy ears after he was crowned champ.

"I'm just ecstatic," Helmer told The Washington Post. "[Trumpet] has a lot of attitude and he's a little crazy."

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Not all bloodhounds live a life like Trumpet, traversing from one dog show to the next (though many are "crazy" like Helmer says). What these hounds are best suited for is using their noses. Bloodhounds, with their floppy skin and lanky ears, are the quintessential tracking dogs, and there's good reason.

While all types of dogs, including German shepherds and Labrador retrievers, can sniff out convicts, cadavers and even bombs, the dogs with floppy ears — like bloodhounds — seem to be the best at what they do.

For one thing, regardless of breed, dogs have amazing noses. With more than 220 million olfactory receptors, experts say a dog's sense of smell is thousands of times more sensitive than a human's. Moreover, dogs with floppy ears, such as bloodhounds, coon hounds, Bassett hounds and others, are exceedingly good trackers. Bloodhounds in particular rarely make a sound on the trail and all that loose skin on their faces helps hold the scent.

These hounds all have one thing in common: long ears. They act as catcher's mitts, scooping up invisible scent particles on the trail and sweeping them toward the nose. The scent particles also get trapped in the folds of wrinkly skin allowing the dogs to carry reference samples as they hunt. Long ears also tamp down a dog's ability to hear far-off sounds, forcing the dogs to rely more on their sense of smell.

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Originally Published: Mar 29, 2018

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