Note: this article was written for Holland Lops, but in most ways it also applies to judging American Fuzzy Lop, French Lop, and Mini Lop rabbits.
I’m all Ears: a Guide to Lop Ears, Illustrated with Photos
I want to say from the very beginning that I do not have perfect ears – and neither do my rabbits. But I have made huge improvements in my [rabbits’] ears since the very beginning of my program.
When learning to judge Holland Lop rabbits, being able to recognize the correct ears and crown is an important skill. True, ears account for just 10 points of 100 in the Holland Lop Standard of Perfection. So it is right that we concentrate more on body (32 points) and head (24 points) when we first begin developing our herds. But once you see your heads and bodies shaping up, it’s time for more fine tuning. Perhaps you will look to the ears next.
Ears and crowns work hand-in-hand, and together, they account for 18 points. Sure, you can have an awesome crown and have wimpy ears. But you are not likely to have a poor crown without some negative effect on the ears. That is, if the crown is tight (narrow from side to side), then you will most likely see ear control. If the crown is narrow from front to back, you will see folding or at least a bell shape to the upper portion of the ear. If the crown is slipped on lop rabbits (placed further back on the skull than it should be), then the ears can sweep forward or backward rather than hang straight
down as they should.
Here’s a tip on viewing pictures of Holland Lops: if you can’t see the ears well in the front view, the crown is probably severely slipped. When the crown and ears are properly placed, the crown and ears can all be seen from the front in a continuous line from the tip of one ear up, over the crown and down to the tip of the second ear.
While it’s true that you sometimes have to exercise a little compromise and give-n-take when you decide which rabbits to keep, it’s still important to have the ideal in mind.
Ear Faults and Disqualifications to Avoid
The ARBA Standard of Pefection lists a general disqualification for ears that are carried above horizontal on all lop breeds. Judges should allow an animal to relax before pronouncing this DQ.
I want to avoid rabbits with really paper-thin ears. I’ve kept some with medium-thick ears. But really thick, well-furred ears are simply beautiful. Face it, those ears are right up there in front of you, so if they are problematic, they are simply not going to be overlooked. They have a huge potential to detract from the overall appearance of your rabbit.
Ditto about creases in the ears. Sure, crown can be fixed pretty easily and you may keep some crown problems to fix in the next generation, if they have other strengths you really need in your herd. But your finished product rabbits will not have creases in their ears. As a side note, pictures of rabbits with creases in their ears seem to magnify the problem.
Belled ears are a little harder to identify, at least for me. Pay a lot of attention to the top portion of Holland Lop, Mini Lop, or American Fuzzy Lop ears at the next few shows and firmly fix in your mind the look of ears that are wide open at the top versus those that are belled (belled ears are domed rather than flat; they are fairly common). If you
still can’t figure it out, ask a judge to show you when he or she comments on the ears.
Narrow ears are very distracting and tend to make the ears look even longer than they are. Short fat ears are the ticket. You may have to cull very hard to get short fat ears. Long, skinny ears seem to pop up out of nowhere too often. I know they do in my herd and, from the for sale rabbits I see around, they must in others’, too.
I think that ear problems vary in severity in different parts of the country and in different lines. You may want to bring in rabbits from specific lines to help with your short, fat, ear goals.
Rounded ear tips are lovely on a Holland. I have to admit that I will accept other shapes if everything else about the rabbit is good. But I do especially like really round ear tips.
The ideal length of Holland Lop ears is to hang down no more than 1″ below the jaw line and be in proportion to the rabbit. I think that means that when you have a gargantuan head and beefy body, you can get away with a little more ear length. After all, the huge head allows more length just to get to the bottom of the jaw in the first place. You’ve seen some bruisers with ears that, on another rabbit would be long, but on that rabbit seemed to look just fine.
I’ve actually seen one or two rabbits that had such tiny ears with huge heads and bodies that they looked a bit funny. I’d certainly opt for smaller ears over ears that are too long, but balance is the ticket, as it really is in all aspects of the Holland Lop.
The Correct Crown Position
Stephen Rausch, a judge I’ve had a few times while showing in Georgia and South Carolina, has been very good to point out when Holland ears actually start just behind the eye as they should. Most, it seems, start somewhere above, and so it is worth mentioning when the ears actually start right behind the eye. I’m not talking about not being slipped here (although ears should hang straight down just behind the eye to judge whether the crown is slipped), I’m talking about where the ears sprouts out from the head.
Ears that originate above the eye and hang down straight behind the eye indicate that the crown is not slipped. Ears that originate just behind the eye and hang from there indicate that the crown is very wide, as it should be.
Ears in My Herd
I started out with lots of very long ears. I mean donkey ears. And I hated them. It didn’t matter to me whether it was the smartest move or not, I had to work on ears. I just couldn’t be happy with long-eared Hollands, no matter what else might be right with them. So I found one buck with super short ears who has a very strong influence on his offspring. You can just about go around the barn and point out his ears on many of my rabbits. So it didn’t take long, with the right piece of genetic material.
Crown: The fur and cartilage above the ears of a lop rabbit that force the ears down.
Silpped Crown A crown placed too far back on the head. The ears should hang directly behind the eyes.
Tight Crown: A crown that lacks width from side-to-side when you are looking at the rabbit face-on. Causes ear control.
Front-to-back Width: The breadth of a crown when looking at the rabbit in profile
Ear Control: Ears that do not flat as they should but stick out to the side. Affectionately known as “airplane ears”.
Definition: The visibility of the crown, being distinct from and rising above the head.
More pictures illustrating how to judge Lop ears according to the ARBA Standard of Perfection
These ears have good substance, meaning that they are nice and thick.
This doe has nice height to her crown. It should be a big “poof” on the top of the head.
This doe has nice side-to-side width of her crown, so that the ears hang all the way downward.
This doe has short, round ears, but a very poor crown. It is set very far back on the head and lacks height and width.
This little guy has what we call airplane ears, or ear control. Very cute – but not a good thing on the show table.
Nice crown placement. The ear hangs right below the eye