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Ear Notch

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You know she's a crazy, evil lioness because she had an ear piercing Gone Horribly Wrong.

Girl: All cats look like that. Quite a lot do anyway.
Sister: Not as large as that, and not with such a big, fluffy tail, and not with that frightening angry expression on their faces, and not with half an ear missing.

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 they can also appear on Beast Man) 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 

    Asian Animation 

    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.

    Fan Works 
  • The reindeer in Under The Northern Lights do ear notching as a mark of clan affiliation as well as for cosmetic reasons (see Real Life for reference). It's mentioned that by the time of the story, it has fallen out of practice, and is only done by the very old-fashioned and the very hard (a good comparison might be a modern Maori who opts for a full facial moko, and insists on having it done the traditional way).
  • In Old West, the left ear of Ramirez Arvenga, a coyote mercenary and The Dragon of the Big Bad, is torn in a shape that resembles a bullet hole.
  • Pawprints: Blake has a torn ear to go along with her Dark and Troubled Past as a member of a persecuted race.

    Film — Animated 

    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 the most reckless, slyest and rebellious 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.
  • In the Discworld, abstract conceptual artist Daniellerina Pouter has these due to the fact Lord Vetinari expressed his criticism of her art by nailing her to a sturdy wooden post by the ears. She wears her ear notches with pride and continues to produce avant-garde art.
  • In Terra Ignota, people can easily determine Mycroft's identity if they see the telltale, coin-sized notch in his ear, which doesn't seem to mesh well with him being both an Actual Pacifist and a convicted criminal. But then it's revealed what his crime was and how the Ear Notch came to be: He's a serial killer and was scarred when he and his lover and co-killer experimented with cannibalism. On each other.
  • In Tales from Dimwood Forest, Graybar is a rough alley cat with a notch in his ear that he received from a fight against three cats, which he won.
  • Cunning, one of Titan's two lackeys, in Bravelands is described as a tough-looking lion with a torn ear.
  • Several of the cats in the no-good Over the Hill Gang in Cat Pack have ear notches (or in one case, half of an ear missing), including the Covered with Scars leader Steak Knife.
  • The protagonist of Stray is a stray cat called Pufftail. One of his defining traits is his ear notch.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Several animals in Savage Kingdom have torn ears due to fights, but the shining example is a leopard named "Torn Ear". She is an old leopard with very torn up ears.

  • Gummibär sports one.

    Video Games 
  • Pokémon:
    • 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), is unable to be transferred outside of the Heart Gold and Soul Silver games, and 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. It's unknown if it is natural or received through fighting.
  • Watch_Dogs: Mob boss Dermot "Lucky" Quinn lost a large chunk of his ear in a gang shootout in his youth. The fact that he was the Sole Survivor of that shootout is also how he earned his nickname.
  • Jibanyan from Yo-Kai Watch died by getting hit by a car and got a notch during the crash. He keeps it even after becoming a yo-kai.
  • One of the options in Episode 5 of Batman: The Telltale Series resulted in this if Batman complies with Lady Arkham/Vicki Vale's demand for him to unmask, it results in her blasting part of his right ear off.
  • Mae from Night in the Woods has a couple small nicks in her left ear, which is appropriate given her history of violence (though she claims it was from a dog bite). Two of Germ's friends (the ones who have ears; the third is a bird) have more prominent ones.


    Web Original 
  • All Kougras from Neopets, but not all of them have the prerequisite attitude.
  • 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.
  • Caleb the Squire from True Tail. So far, how he got it has not been explained.

    Western Animation 
  • The stray cat Rita from Animaniacs has one.
  • Furrball from Tiny Toon Adventures.
  • Modo from Biker Mice from Mars.
  • Don Karnage from TaleSpin.
  • Ratty from Mr. Bogus actually has two of these, one in the middle of his right ear, and one on the tip of his left ear.
  • Stewie from Family Guy gets one when Brian tried to piece his ear (they were both drunk at the time).
  • Rocky from PAW Patrol has a small yet noticable notch on one of his ears.
  • Binka:
    • Ollie is a mangy-looking stray cat who is missing part of a ear.
    • Spit has a chunk of ear gone and he also has a large scar on his back. It's fitting that he's always fighting with Binka and Ollie.

    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.
  • Probably one of the most famous examples is Evander Holyfield getting a piece of his ear bitten off by Mike Tyson in an infamous match contested on June 28, 1997. When Holyfield appeared in animated form on Phineas and Ferb, they drew the bite in his ear.


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