Have you ever seen an animal with huge, floppy ears and wondered why it needs such big ears? Ears come in all shapes and sizes in the animal kingdom, and while the largest ears look a bit silly, they serve important purposes. Keep reading to learn about 12 animals with some of the biggest ears relative to their body size and how they use them.
Bilbies are small, rabbit-like marsupials found in Australia. With their long snouts and giant ears that stand upright, they look like tiny kangaroos. Bilbies have ears about 75% of their head and body length. This gives them a keen sense of hearing to listen for insects bustling under the ground. Their ears also help them stay cool in the hot Outback climate.
Bilbies were once common in Australia, but habitat destruction and predators have endangered them. Next time you visit the land down under, watch for these adorable animals with ears like mini satellite dishes.
Elephants are renowned for their large floppy ears that look almost too big for their massive head. An African elephant’s ears can reach over 6 feet wide and weigh over 100 pounds each! Asian elephants have smaller ears that are still quite impressive at around 4 feet wide.
Elephants use their tremendous ears like giant fans to help regulate their body temperature. The blood is cooled as it circulates through the many blood vessels in the thin ears. Elephants flap their ears to generate a breeze across this network of veins to disperse heat. This prevents them from overheating in the intense African sun.
Those gigantic ears also aid elephants in hearing. Elephants can perceive infrasonic rumbles from other elephants miles away thanks to their big sound collectors. The next time you see an elephant, observe how they position their ears. Forward-facing ears signal aggression, while ears are splayed out, which means they are relaxed. Always give these large-eared giants their space in the wild!
The fennec fox has gained popularity in recent years for having outsized ears that seem too enormous for its small head. These petite pale foxes native to the North African desert have ears over 6 inches long – about one-third of their body length! Those amplifiers allow them to hear prey rustling deep under the sand. Their massive ears also help dissipate body heat in the scorching desert environment.
The fennec fox’s cartoonishly large ears have made it a favourite zoo animal. But in the wild, those ears are critical to their survival. They are specially adapted to thrive in an extreme climate. If you ever find yourself in the Sahara, listen for the fennec fox’s high-pitched howls echoing across the dunes.
The caracal may look like an average wild cat at first glance. But look closer, and you’ll notice their elongated, tufted ears. These medium-sized cats native to Africa and central Asia have ears over 4 inches long. With those giant slinky ears, caracals can hear the slightest scurry of a mouse from yards away. Their extraordinary hearing helps them hunt rodents and birds to survive.
That’s not the caracal’s only feature – they can also make vertical leaps up to 10 feet to knock birds right out of the sky! Next time you visit a savannah, watch for these fierce felines with ears like antennas. You’re likely to miss them.
Black-Tailed Jack Rabbit
Black-tailed jackrabbits are common hares found in western North America known for their enormous ears. Their ears can reach up to 8 inches long – about a third of their body length! You’ll immediately notice those gigantic fan-like ears if you spot one of these jackrabbits in the desert.
These large surface areas help dissipate body heat and keep jackrabbits cool. Their ears are also critical for picking up tiny sounds to detect predators nearby, even when camouflaged. Jackrabbits also have excellent night vision within those mega ears. Out west, watch for black-tailed jackrabbits bouncing through the desert on massive springs – just look for the ears!
Jerboas are tiny hopping rodents that resemble mini kangaroos. The long-eared jerboa from Mongolia and China is notable for having enormous ears that are two-thirds its body length! They look positively comical. Their ears can grow over 4 inches long – more than twice the length of their head.
Long-eared jerboas have excellent hearing suited to listening for owls and other nighttime predators. Their ears help them balance when hopping, too. Sadly, the long-eared jerboa is endangered today due to habitat loss. Let’s hope conservation efforts can preserve these funny-looking creatures and their extraordinary ears.
As you may have guessed by the name, the bat-eared fox has exceptionally large ears. These sandy-furred foxes native to Africa have ears nearly 5 inches long that they use as radar. Bat-eared foxes have exceptional low-light vision and hearing thanks to those huge ears. This allows them to search for insects at night. The next time you’re on safari, look for bat-eared foxes foraging in the dark – look for their massive ears!
No other animal has quite such long, tubular ears as the aardvark. These anteater-like animals native to Africa have ears over 10 inches long that resemble bat wings! They are flexible and can rotate independently to listen for the smallest sounds in any direction. With ears, this big, aardvarks can hear termites burrowing deep underground so they can feast.
Aardvarks are elusive, emerging only at night to feed. But if you spot one, you’ll immediately notice its unique ears. They almost look too large for its pig-like body. Let’s admire and protect these unusual animals with ears like no other.
Servals are spotted wild cats native to Africa and are famous among cat lovers for their oversized ears. These medium-sized cats have ears over 7 inches tall – the tallest of any cat relative to their body size. Those satellite dish ears allow servals to find rodents scurrying in tall grass. Servals have excellent hearing and can pounce on prey from 12 feet away!
While once common on the savannah, several populations are declining due to habitat loss. Support conservation efforts, so we don’t lose these cats gifted with extraordinary ears. And if you ever visit Africa, listen closely for rustling grass – it could be a serval’s ears tuning in to their next snack.
Hares are closely related to rabbits but generally larger with longer ears. The European hare’s ears grow over 6 inches long! Almost as notable are their black-tipped ears, which likely help communicate subtleties in posture. Meanwhile, Arctic hares have smaller bodies but the same-sized ears to maximize heat release in cold climates.
Next time you see a hare, admire its lengthy ears that allow it to Pick up the smallest sounds. They need these amplifiers to listen for stealthy predators trying to sneak up on them, even foxes and cats with excellent hearing. Once extremely common, hare populations have declined in modern times. But if you spend time in nature, watch for their trademark oversized ears.
No, it’s not just their sharp spines on long-eared hedgehogs – check out their ears! These hedgehogs, native to Eastern Europe and Asia, have ears over 2 inches long. That’s enormous relative to their petite bodies. Long-eared hedgehogs’ ears help them listen for prey bustling under fallen leaves on the forest floor. Their ears also regulate body heat.
Unfortunately, the long-eared hedgehog is endangered today due to habitat destruction. We must protect these little critters with ears larger than their head so curious people have the chance to see them for years to come. If you’re hiking in the forests of Eastern Europe, listen closely, and you may hear a long-eared hedgehog foraging thanks to its mega ears.
Rafinesque’s Big-Eared Bat
Bats are well known for their large ears, but Rafinesque’s big-eared bats truly take it to the extreme. These bats native to the southwestern US have ears over 2.5 inches tall – nearly as long as their body length! Their ears are constantly moving to pinpoint the location of prey. Combined with echolocation, their enormous ears make these bats excellent nighttime hunters.
Sadly, Rafinesque’s big-eared bats are endangered today due to human disturbance of caves. We must protect these unique bats and their cartoonishly oversized ears. Without conservation, we risk losing them.
So next time you see a bat with exceptionally long ears fluttering in the night, take a moment to admire its bizarre ears that make its nocturnal lifestyle possible. Rafinesque’s big-eared bats remind us that sometimes, the creatures with the strangest features are the most special.