I’m All Ears!

Dumbo, Disney’s live-action remake of its 1941 classic, is out today in cinemas. In the film, the young circus elephant is ridiculed for his disproportionately large ears – but for the real-life species that share Dumbo’s defining attributes, having enormous pinnae is a matter of survival!

 With ears that are two thirds the length of its body, the long-eared jerboa has                     Aardvarks are burrowing mammals from Africa. Their rotatable, rabbit-like ears are

one of the largest ear-to-body ratios in the animal kingdom. The ears facilitate                    designed to hear predators but can also be conveniently folded away when the

heat loss, allowing  the mouse-like creatures to stay cool in the hot desert sun.                    aardvark is digging, to prevent dirt getting into them.


Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), California Serval (Leptailurus serval) kitten, twelve week old orphan, Masai Mara Reserve, Kenya Steenbok (Raphicerus campestris) female, portrait, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

The black-tailed jackrabbit (actually a hare) uses its ears          The serval’s big ears make it look adorable, but                 The ears of the steenbok look completely out of

to stay cool in the shrublands of Western North America           they’re not just for show. They confer an excellent             proportion to its head, but they come in handy

and Mexico. The big ears are packed with small blood               sense of hearing, helping the African cat locate                  against predators. The steenbok’s excellent

vessels to help the hare radiate excess heat.                               rodents, birds, insects and frogs to eat.                                hearing help it avoid big cats, wild dogs and jackals.


Bats have the best hearing of all land mammals and often have huge ears compared              The big, fluffy, teddy-bear ears of the koala give it an excellent sense of

to the rest of the body. Rather than using their sight to locate insects at night, bats                    hearing,  which helps them detect predators and other koalas. Koalas use

make rapid high-pitched ultrasounds, which bounce off their prey. The bat hears                      a range of sounds to communicate over large distances. Males make a deep,

the echo and can tell where the object is – hence the term “echolocation”.                                 grunting bellow to signify their social status and physical position.

As well as dissipating body heat, the huge ears of the          The aye-aye has ears that would look more at home        Basset hounds have the largest ears of any domestic

fennec fox afford it a highly developed sense of hearing       on the head of a cat than a primate! Feeding on               dog – but they haven’t evolved that way. The cute

essential for locating prey. In the silence of the Saharan       grubs, the aye-aye taps on tree bark with its                     floppy ears were selectively bred by humans and are

Desert, fennecs can hear mammals burrowing under             elongated finger, relying on its sharp hearing to               thought to enhance the Basset’s scent-detection

the sand and even a beetle walking on the dunes.                   identify where the grubs are hiding.                                  abilities by trapping smells.


See more animals with big ears in our gallery below:

If you’d like to see a larger gallery of animals with amazing ears, check out our I’m All Ears gallery!