Top 20 Animals with Big Ears [With Pictures]

Fennec Fox
Photo: Hehaden / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

As we know, there are many animals with big ears by human standards, but many species might fly under the radar as their ears are big in comparison to their body size. These are the animals that we’ll be focusing on in today’s article, as we’ll be listing all the animals with large ears!

Find the list of 20 animals with big ears below:

  • Elephants
  • Koalas
  • Fennec Fox
  • Kangaroos
  • Serval
  • Aardvark
  • Aye-Aye
  • Mule Deer
  • Brahman
  • Caracal
  • Galago
  • Sand Cat
  • European Hare
  • Bilbies
  • Greater Kudu
  • Anglo-Nubian Goat
  • English Lop
  • Long-Eared Jerboa
  • Long-Eared Hedgehog
  • California leaf-nosed bat

* Note: animals are ranked in order of their search volume.

1. Elephants

Photo: Vaughan Leiberum / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name (Family): Elephantidae

They’re not only the largest living mammals on Earth – elephants also have the biggest ears out of all the animals on the planet! Out of the three living species of elephants (African bush, African forest and the Asian elephant), the African bush elephants have the largest ears.

What’s truly impressive is that they’re not just the largest ears relative to their size – they’re the largest ears in general! However, they’re not there just for them to hear well. Elephants use their massive ears to stay cool.

If you’ve ever seen an elephant flapping its ears around on TV, they’re using them as a sort of cooling device, causing small breezes to help them withstand the unforgiving African heat conditions.

2. Koalas

Photo: Jo Christian Oterhals / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Phascoloractos cinereus

A little known fact about the koala is that they have terrible eyesight. In order to protect themselves from predators, evolution has blessed koalas with incredible hearing. This hearing is directly connected to the size of their ears.

What’s important here is not only the size, but also the roundness of the ears – allowing them to register more sounds than humans, for example, can. Their ears are also very fluffy, filled with fur and hair.

 3. Fennec Fox

Fennec Fox
Photo: Hehaden / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Vulpes zerda

This tiny fox lives in the Sahara desert and a few countries in northern Africa and it’s unlikely you’ll ever see one as they’re very secretive. Their ears, however, aren’t helping with the secrecy, as they’re massive for their size.

The Fennec Fox uses its giant ears to dissipate heat, as its whole body has completely adapted to living in deserts. Because of their large ears, they’re able to withstand high temperatures and they can live on very little water. An additional bonus is their quality of hearing, as they can easily hear prey moving around at night.

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4. Kangaroos

Photo: Scott Caleja / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name (family): Macropodidae

They’re popular as jumping animals, but kangaroos are also animals with big ears, and with good reason! Their hearing is impeccable and its primary use is defense from predators.

In the wild, this allows them to hear the predator from far away and run to safety! They can also move their ears independently, similar to a radar, so they can focus their hearing in any direction they want!

5. Serval

Photo: Rob / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Scientific name: Leptailurus serval

These animals, usually living in sub-Saharan countries, have an opposing use for their ears in comparison to our previous entry. They’re predators, and zoologists believe that they rely on their ears when they’re hunting just as much as their eyes.

Servals have incredible hearing which they use to locate and track down food! They do most of their hunting in tall grass, which renders their eyesight useless, so they have to rely on their ears to detect prey.

6. Aardvark

Photo: Marie Hale / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Orycteropus afer

This nocturnal mammal lives in the bottom half of Africa and it moves around only at night. Because of this, it developed massive ears which allow it to hear everything at night, since eyesight is basically useless at that point.

It’s also possible that they use their ears when they’re feeding. It’s possible that these animals can actually hear ants and termites before they get close enough so they can smell them.

7. Aye-Aye

Photo: Frank Vassen / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Daubentonia madagascariensis

Out of all the big eared animals, the aye-aye might have the most protruding hearing! This species of lemur feeds mostly on larvae and grubs. The way they do it is what’s impressive about this species.

They tap on wood with their finger and listen to the larvae moving in the trees! Their hearing works similarly to that of a bat. To achieve this method of echolocation, the aye-ayes had to develop a very complex ear geometry.

8. Mule Deer

Mule Deer
Photo: Yellowstone National Park / Flickr / CC PDM 1.0

Scientific name: Odocoileus hemionus

This species, indigenous to North America, was actually named after another species of animals with big ears – mules. Not only are their ears large, like those of a mule, they can actually move around independently, just like mule ears.

This ability allows them to scan their surroundings for predators, which is incredibly important for deer who are a virtually defenseless species.

9. Brahman

Photo: Kristin Klein /  Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Bos taurus/indicus

This breed of cattle is actually a cross of an Indian breed with several European breeds. With time, it spread all over the States, Australia and Brazil. These calves have incredibly long, floppy ears which make it easy for them to cool down.

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The American Brahman can withstand very high temperatures and humidity thanks to these ears. Their ears are hanging without any support and they usually grow until they die, so older cattle usually has much longer ears.

10. Caracal

Photo: Tambako The Jaguar / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Caracal caracal

The name for this cat actually derives from its ears, as ‘Karrakh-kulak’ means ‘cat with big ears’ in Turkish. However, the name doesn’t serve them nearly enough justice, as these cat ears are stunning devices that allow them to hunt and move in pitch dark if necessary.

They actually have more than 20 muscles in each ear – they use these muscles to move their ears around independently to focus their hearing. They also have tufts that they use as communication devices for other caracals.

11. Galago

Photo: Joachim S. Müller / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name (family): Galagidae

These animals equipped with big ears also use them to hunt, but they’re much more powerful than you’d ever expect. Not only can they hear insects, which is amazing on its own, they can actually pinpoint their location while they’re moving and catch them in the air!

The galago can move its ears on its own, tucking them in when it’s moving through tall grass or when it’s sleeping. Like many other animals on this list, the galago can move each ear independently.

12. Sand Cat

Sand Cat
Photo: Smithsonian’s National Zoo / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Felis margarita

Although this cat might remind you of the one on your couch, it’s actually a wild cat that lives in North Africa and Central Asia. In comparison to other animals with larger ears on this list, you might think that this cat’s ears aren’t that big, but you’d be wrong.

Its ear canal is impressively wide for its size, enhancing the cat’s hearing greatly, with their outer ears actually being twice the size of a domesticated cat. In comparison, they can hear about five times more accurate than the domesticated cat, while their hearing is more sensitive too.

13. European Hare

European Hare
Photo: Sergey Yeliseev / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Lepus europaeus

Hares are well known for being some of the most common animals with big ears, but the European hare definitely takes the title with their incredibly long ears. Their ears can be up to 4.3 inches long and they’re usually longer than their head.

The European hare uses its ears to scan the area for predators, but also to communicate with other hares. Raised ears signal interest and awareness, while lowered ears are a sign to back away.

14. Bilby

Photo: Mertie / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientific name (genus): Macrotis

This tiny species of rabbit-bandicoots uses its huge ears to radiate heat. However, their large ears also allow them to hear very well, which ensures proper navigation during the night and the evasion of predators.

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Bilblies’ ears are often longer than their body height, making them stand out. Today, you can only find them in Australia, where they’re considered an endangered species.

15. Greater Kudu

Greater Kudu
Photo: Ucumari Photography / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Tragelaphus strepsiceros

You’ll find this woodland antelope in eastern and southern Africa where they’re in constant danger from predators. They use their big ears to detect movement and run away on time.

Their ears are large and round, acting like a radar, and they’ll let out a loud alarm bark when they sense danger. Ears have proven to be an important tool in the wild, as they’re also a target to many hunters.

16. Anglo-Nubian Goat

Anglo-Nubian Goat
Photo: Smithsonian’s National Zoo / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Capra hircus

You can’t find these goats in the wild anymore, but they come from a cross-breeding effort between British goats and wild, lop-eared goats from the Middle East and India. They’re very recognizable because of their hanging, large ears.

Their ears usually grow to be longer than their heads, hanging down to their neck. Unlike with other animals on this list, they serve no practical purpose.

17. English Lop

English Lop
Photo: Vincent Parsons / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Scientific name: Oryctolagus cuniculus

This is the first species of lop rabbit developed by humans and we can nowadays find them in the wild in England. Interestingly, they have the longest ears out of any rabbit breed.

Their ears grow throughout the first five months of their life and they can be up to 32 inches long! That’s an incredible length for a rabbit that usually weighs around 10 pounds.

18. Long-Eared Jerboa

Photo: Sergey Yeliseev / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Euchoreutes naso

These rodents got their name after their ears, which are helpful when they have to hunt insects. These rodents are usually only active at night and they use sound to locate insects.

They’re also incredible jumpers, so they easily hop into the air and grab an insect! The ears of a long-tailed jerboa are usually 1.3 times as large as their own head, and except for hunting, they’re also useful for dissipating heat.

19. Long-Eared Hedgehog

Long-Eared Hedgehog
Photo: Animal Diversity Web / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Hemiechinus auritus

This species of hedgehog, native to Central Asian countries, uses its ears to dissipate heat in the wild. They also utilize their incredible hearing and sense of smell to find prey and detect predators.

Unlike other hedgehogs, where you can’t even notice their ears, the long-eared hedgehog has two, dog-like ears on each side, which they can move independently.

20. California Leaf-Nosed Bat

California Leaf-Nosed Bat
Photo: Bureau of Reclamation / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Macrotus californicus

The last out of the animals with big ears on our list, the California leaf-nosed bat has a pair of huge ears on its head. They use their ears to detect predators and insects, but also to dissipate heat.

Since they’re adapted to very hot areas, their ears become very useful when they have to cool down. Not much is known about this species and it’s unfortunately endangered by loss of environment. 

To End

Out of all the animals with big ears, the African bush elephant has the largest ears out of all mammals on the planet. They use their massive ears to cool themselves down during a particularly hot day.

A lot of other animals use their ears to dissipate heat too, but some also use them for hunting (like the caracal and the sand cat) or to detect predators (koalas and kangaroos). Most (but not all) of these animals grow their ears until they die.

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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