Why Did Humans Start Cutting Dogs’ Tails?

Why did humans start cutting dogs' tails?

Currently, there is a strong movement to try to put an end to the tail cut of dogs for aesthetic reasons, as this results in an unproductive practice that can harm the animal, just to achieve a standard of beauty.

But how did this practice start?

A little of history

Although dogs have been among humans for thousands of years, there is no clear record of when dogs’ tail amputation began, but there are some drawings and paintings that show dogs with their tail clipped from ancient civilizations.

However, the purpose in these cases was very different from simply matching the breed’s aesthetic standards, having a much more functional reason depending on the breed and the use the dogs had.

hunting dogs


In the case of dogs that were used for tracking, chasing and catching prey, the tail was cut to prevent them from injuring themselves during the activity.

The tail was one of the most exposed and vulnerable areas, so much so that, for many of the breeds used for hunting, dogs with a short tail were favored for hunting routes. This is the case with Fox Terriers.

fighting dogs

Both the tail and the ears were amputated on fighting dogs or on dogs used for war, to prevent rivals from catching them in these regions.  Even so, the ears were cut off to give these dogs a more ferocious appearance.

Dogs with different uses

For dogs that were given different uses, the best thing was that they had their tails and ears clipped, as they never knew what kind of activities they were going to do.

For example, Boxers were used for numerous tasks, such as messengers, guardians or assistant dogs. In a way that the ears and tail were cut so that they could perform their tasks in an excellent way (for example, with the cut of the ears the listening range of these dogs was extended).

class differentiation

Some dogs with specific characteristics were exclusive to royalty. For example, Bobtails with long tails were much appreciated by nobles, who had to pay a tax to have them.

In order to differentiate the luxury specimens, the tail of puppies that did not comply with the standard considered normal was cut.

farm dogs

Dogs specialized in taking care of farms, especially those who lived in barns or mills to tend grain and hunt rats, had their tails amputated to prevent them from being bitten by rats and contracting diseases.



From 1839, with an essay by Sir William Youatt, the first protests against the amputation of parts of the dog began, since in modern life these amputations are completely unnecessary.

While at one time amputations were done to protect the dog’s integrity (in most cases), at present amputations are only performed with the purpose of maintaining breed standards, that is, dogs are mutilated exclusively for aesthetic criteria.

In fact, in some European countries, the amputation of the tail and ears for aesthetic purposes is regulated and qualifies as animal abuse.

Nowadays, it is increasingly common to see owners who do not submit their dogs to these absurdities, demonstrating that more and more people treat their pets as living beings and not as mere objects.

In which cases is it good to amputate the tail

Although it is not good to submit the dog to these procedures for aesthetic purposes, there are very specific situations in which yes, it is convenient to do.

For example, by serious infections or severe injuries, which endanger the animal’s health or its quality of life and in which this type of intervention is necessary.

According to what the legislation of some countries says, only in these cases are amputations allowed and the owner must keep the veterinary evidence so that he does not have problems in the future.

Image Credits: The Collector of Instant Photography & Video.

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