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Ear Notch

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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.

Say that your anthropomorphic character is from the wrong side of the tracks — a true scrapper from the bad side of town. How do you show this easily? Add some notches to their 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, though humans with ear notches is not unheard of—like slit earlobes for instance—some are fixable some aren't.

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.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Asian Animation 

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • In Footrot Flats, Major the pig dog — who hunts feral pigs — is missing the tip of one ear.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • 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.
  • Under the Northern Lights: The reindeer do ear notching as a mark of status and clan affiliation as well as for cosmetic reasons. It's mentioned that by the time of the story this 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).

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Dresden Files has Harry's dog Mouse with a notched ear. When Harry first gets the puppy he notes that it's probably a sign the pup is either more brave or more stupid than the rest of the litter.
  • 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.
  • In Gods and Warriors, Lykonian Outsiders such as Hylas and Issi are marked by having a nick cut out of their left ears. By the time of The Burning Shadow, Hylas has cut off the bottom of his earlobe to hide the fact he's an Outsider.
  • 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 protagonist of Stray (1987) is a stray cat called Pufftail. One of his defining traits is his ear notch.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The protagonist of a memorably weird children's book series called Tough Tednote , an anthropomorphic bear who's a former merchant seaman and apparently a bit of a Retired Badass, sports one of these.
  • 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. Longtail is left with one of these as well, after provoking "the poor lost kittypet" who will eventually become Firestar.

    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 a bite in his right ear, indicating his crazy personality. Given he's a living gummy bear, it's also likely a result of somebody trying to eat him.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • During the last fight with Higgs in Death Stranding, Higgs can attack Sam and chew a piece of his ear off. The ear stays damaged until the end of the game, but it's only cosmetic.
  • Kirby and the Forgotten Land: Elfilin has a notch in his right ear, though he's far more cute and cuddly than you'd expect from the trope description. Possibly given to him in the lab he escaped from, though nothing's confirmed.
  • In Man of Medan, Conrad can have this inflicted upon him if you choose to have him constantly antagonize the pirates that have kidnapped him.
  • 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.
  • Pokémon:
    • The Spiky-eared Pichu, otherwise known as "Notch-eared Pichu", has a left ear with three spikes coming out of it. She 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.
    • 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.
    • The cover Legendaries of Pokémon Sword and Shield Zacian and Zamazenta have ear notches in their Hero of Many Battles forms. It's an early clue that they were owned by another trainer in the past.
  • Shanty from Them's Fightin' Herds has an unexplained notch in her left ear. (Well, it's supposed to be her left.) The fact that she's a rough Pirate Girl might have something to do with it.
  • 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.

  • Ariel in Angel Down has two notches in her left ear.
  • Avania: Una Pennrose has one on her right ear and two on her left. Major MacIntyre has several, and is missing a substantial portion of his left ear.
  • Renowned spacer Ace from Commander Kitty sports one. CK even contemplates getting his own ear notched.
  • In The Intrepid Girlbot the Big Bad Raccoon — but not Big Bad — has an ear notch.
    • After Raccoon #1 'splodes the family home, there are a lot more notches to be had amongst the rest of the raccoon population.
  • Kevin & Kell: Subverted a little, Rudy tries to convince Kell to let him get a designer ear notch. Of course, she is less than enthusiastic about the notion.
  • Lackadaisy: Rocky has a notch on his ear - which he got playing with a gun because he thought it made him look dashing.
  • Scurry: Protagonist Wix has two notches in his right ear, implied to be the consequences of his reckless nature.
  • Buwaro in Slightly Damned has ear notches. He's got Cute Little Fangs too, for what that's worth.
  • Albion Alabaster, one of the three Basitin generals in Twokinds, is missing half of his left ear. He received this wound when he murdered Keith's mother Cathleen. She tried to defend herself with a knife and cut off Alabaster's ear, who responded by smashing a bottle into her face. Basitin ears are incredibly sensitive, so that one must have hurt.

    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 
  • 101 Dalmatian Street: The Dimitri Trio each have a notch on one of their ears.
  • In Animaniacs (2020), Julia (a Recurring Character in the Pinky and the Brain segments) has part of her left ear missing.
  • Biker Mice from Mars: Modo has one. It's presumably one of the injuries inflicted when Dr. Karbunkle tortured him and his bros.
  • Binka:
    • Ollie is a mangy-looking stray cat who is missing part of an 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.
  • Boo Boom! The Long Way Home: Aurelia, the cat, has a notch in her left ear, and is completely missing the top half of her right ear.
  • Stewie from Family Guy gets one when Brian tried to pierce his ear (they were both drunk at the time).
  • 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.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Cutie Remark Part 1": Rainbow Dash in the King Sombra Bad Present timeline is shown fighting in the frontlines with a portion of her ear cut off along with having an artificial wing.
  • The Octonauts: Kwazii has a nick in his ear, fitting his reckless pirate nature.
  • The Owl House
    • The Golden Guard has a triangular notch in his elf-like left ear.
    • Emperor Belos has a similar notch in his left ear, and his ears as a whole are significantly scarred and misshapen. "Hollow Mind" reveals why this is — Belos is human, and cut his ears into points to blend in better with witches.
  • PAW Patrol: Rocky has a small yet noticeable notch on one of his ears.
  • Rocky Kwaterner: Rocky's left ear is notched. It must have happened while he was still living in prehistoric times as he's had it since the start of the show, but how it happened is never addressed, nor does anyone ever call attention to it.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: Dr. T'Ana is missing a piece of her right ear, which suggests that she survived a very dangerous mission as a Combat Medic sometime in the past.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: Furrball has a circular chunk taken out of his right ear to go with his broken, bandaged tail. Which makes his consistent characterization as an alley cat leading a tough life all the more appropriate.

     Real Life 
  • If you ever see a stray cat with the edge of one ear that looks like it's been sliced off, that means it was caught, spayed or neutered, then released.