Follow the Ears

Humans are word focused. Unless someone says look! we often don’t. One of the joys of riding is to tap into the world through my horse’s senses. I can feel when Tonka takes in a deep breath to smell the air. I see his ears swivel. I feel his body orient to something – something that I can’t smell or see or hear, but that he can. I look with him, and sometimes it comes into focus for me.

Tonka and I went for an explore along a river at a state forest.



Tonka’s ears flicked first, then his neck turned.



Do you see what he saw (or first heard, or smelled)?



Wild swans. (Sorry about the quality of the photo. Taking pictures from horseback with an iPhone is difficult!)

close swans


I always pay attention to the ears. Here’s Pip enjoying the water celery at the back of the pond. One ear is to the food, but the other is pointed back and up. I wonder what he’s aware of that I’m not?

two ears


Lily has radar ears. She even pays attention to what flies overhead. Her ears keep the farm safe.



Alas, not every animal has ears worth watching. Some animals have floppy ears and are only aware of the immediate world around them. That’s okay. They have other, endearing qualities.


Have your animals’ ears clued you into something that you would have otherwise have missed? Leave a comment!


  1. I understand my dog and our cat’s ears, chicken ears are hard to see:), and we are learning alot about our new to us Llamas. They use their ears alot to tell me what and how they are feeling…..I am beginning to understand that just because their ears are down while eating their daily banana doesn’t mean they are mad, it means hmm, hmm, hmm, good…

    • llamas ears as so cool – how they twist in and those tufts. Because they’re camelids and not equines, I’m sure that there are nuances to their expressions that one can be misled by.

  2. I have a Border Collie puppy. I now know when there are crickets running through the grass in front of me! :D

  3. When I am in the run with the girls very often a bird will call overhead and they freeze and look up while listening. I know I can actually hear it too but I see how aware they are.

  4. Our cats ears and tail always tell me when she’s up to no good !! Wonderful photo’s, Scooter is so adorable even without radar ears…:)

  5. My Malamute’s ears have cued me into a person approaching me while I was working in the backyard. I would not have noticed this intrusive “salesman” who gave me an uneasy feeling until he was right behind me if it weren’t for her.

    • Your Malamute didn’t bark or growl…..I thought they were good watch dogs.

      • Aster is quite friendly with people and not much of a watch dog, her ears perked up when she saw him approaching. She did start barking once he got closer to us. I’m sure she could sense my nervousness because that’s atypical for her.

    • They do, don’t they. Methinks Scooter hails from the Blanche Dubois school of canines, relying solely on the kindness of strangers, or, in this case, of her human family. Cuteness serves her very, very well.

  6. I love taking a walk in the snow with my JRTs. They are riveted on all the activity going on under the snow and every so often will freeze, turn their heads this way and that, then leap straight up and do a nose dive into the snow — like wild foxes do. Despite straining my ears and shutting my eyes, I have never –even one time– heard what they hear so clearly. I’d say one of every ten to twelve nose dive results in a mouthful of some poor wiggling rodent. Their prey drive is so strong they don’t have any interest in eating what they catch, they just kill it, drop it and move right on. (It’s sort of awful, really, but I tell myself some raptor or mammal gets a free meal.). The world from a dog’s perspective is so different than ours is.

  7. And Candy’s flop ears added to her air of imperiousness, don’t you think?

  8. We have a yellow lab mix. One evening, shortly after we adopted her, I was playing on the nursery floor with my youngest (she was just over a year old at the time). The dog, who was in the room with us, perked up and looked funny towards the toy box. It was just a quick look, but I figured something was there that I couldn’t see or hear. I looked behind the toy box and, sure enough, there was a scorpion. We killed the scorpion and praised the dog thoroughly. It was pretty amazing!