Ear Notch

Bob the Mouse is from the wrong side of the tracks, a true scrapper from the bad side of town; but how do you show this easily? Add some notches to his ears for that tried and tested "been through it all" indicator. The ol' 'circular chunk out of the ear' character design trick has been around for some time and most commonly appears on animated animals. It acts as a simple indicator of a character's alignment or temperament if within a group, usually denoting tough or evil traits or simply to denote badassery.

On the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism this can apply to almost all points from Nearly Normal Animal to Funny Animal (though can appear on Petting Zoo People) as long as the ears are still large enough and/or discernible as non-human. Even humanoid species with large or long ears like elves can have ear notching too, just don't expect it on a human as it'll be almost entirely invisible.

Sometimes can be used for added character in a Cute Little Fangs sense where the character isn't at all gritty and/or bad. Tangentially related to Good Scars, Evil Scars.

Has nothing to do with the ear of Notch, the creator of Minecraft.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Boss in Hamtaro.
  • Giro, the villanous wolf leader from Arashino Yoru Ni, due to him having one of his ears bitten off by Mei's mother before telling her son to run away as he and the other wolf maul her to death.
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure: Part 4 has a Stand-using rat with a chunk missing from one ear. As such, Jotaro nicknames him "Bug-Eaten".

    Comic Books 
  • Gen in Usagi Yojimbo has a broken horn.
  • In the comic strip Outland by Berke Breathed, Mortimer Mouse (a parody of Mickey) has a bite taken out of one ear—supposedly the result of a scuffle with Disney exec Michael Eisner.
  • Azrael in The Smurfs has one. In the live-action movie, it is even shown how he gets it.


    Film-Live Action 
  • Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had one from when he was still a regular rat in the live action films. In the computer generated sequel TMNT, he doesn't, prompting one of the directors to joke in the commentary that he's had some work done between films.
  • Tsu'tey from Avatar.
  • The mother tiger from Two Brothers.
  • Alvin in the live-action adaptation of Alvin and the Chipmunks has a notch in his ear, perhaps to identify him as a scrappiest member of the group.

  • The Dresden Files has Harry's dog Mouse with a notched ear. When Harry first gets the puppy he notes that its probably a sign the pup is either more brave or more stupid than the rest of the litter.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, there's large groups of fighting cats, so someone's bound to get a ripped ear. Particularly notable are the minor character Tornear, who is named after this, and the Big Bad, Tigerstar; it's one of his more frequently noted physical characteristics.
  • In Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the description of Growltiger ("a bravo cat") states, in pertinent part, "One ear was somewhat missing, no need to tell you why...."
  • The Eagle of the Ninth's Esca the (human) ex-gladiator has a cropped ear as his Slave Brand. This is Artistic Licence History and he's heavily characterised with Animal Motifs.
  • The protagonist of a memorably weird children's book series called "Tough Ted"note , an anthropomorphic bear who's a former merchant seaman and apparently a bit of a Retired Badass, sports one of these.

  • Gummibär sports one.

    Video Games 
  • The Spiky-eared Pichu, otherwise known as "Notch-eared Pichu" has a left ear with three spikes coming out of it. It has a unique game sprite, knows Pain Split (a move that Pichu or any other member of the line cannot learn normally), unable to be transfered outside of the Heart Gold and Soul Silver games and it cannot evolve. There's no interesting story behind why its ear is like that, and it's almost universally considered a Promotional Powerless Piece of Garbage.
    • It may not be on the ears, but a male Garchomp has a notch on his back fin, while the female has no notch.


    Web Original 
  • All Kougras from Neopets, but not all of them have the prerequisite attitude.
    • This troper once read a fanfic where a Kougra character had an ear notch that was a triangle instead of the traditional shape and that marked him as a blood member of a Kougra supremist cult. Given that he had been raised by a loving Aisha mother figure, he rejected the cult leader's offer of joining.
  • From the Furry Basketball Association, Buck Hopper, Shane Rufus, Cheeto Wolfote, Bruce Bounder (who's missing half an ear). In a universe filled with Badass Furry characters, this is inevitable.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Invoked for livestock as a method of herd identification. Some of the more commonly notched livestock species are pigs, sheep and reindeer.
  • For aquatic creatures it's often the dorsal fin that's notched to assist with individual member identification.
  • Rats and cats can gain injuries through fights which result in ear notching.
    • Barn cats can also lose the tips of their ears to frostbite. Which still makes them survivors.
  • A notch in the left ear on a cat can also mean a stray has been fixed, which is somewhat less badass.
    • Typically, to make it obvious that this isn't merely a battle scar, the entire tip of the ear is clipped off.