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Are Seals Related to Dogs? The Answer Might Surprise You

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

a seal

If it looks like a dog and barks like a dog, it must be a dog—or at least closely related to one, right? Not necessarily.

Seals are commonly referred to as dogs of the sea. They have a dog-like face, the same doggo charm, and bark like them as well. But that doesn’t make them close cousins. They’re not in the same scientific family. Read on for more details on why these two animals are further apart than you might think. So are seals related to dogs?

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Taxonomy Concerns Between Dogs and Seals

When it comes to taxonomy (the science of naming and describing organisms), the more taxonomic levels that two animals share, the more closely related they’re considered to be.

These are the seven main levels of classifications:

From the widest range to the narrowest:
  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus
  • Species

When it comes to dogs and seals, they only share the top four classifications. And while this may seem like a lot to claim close relativity, it isn’t. For example, humans can claim the same degrees of separation as big-eyed tarsiers. Sure, we may share the same order as a tarsier, but that doesn’t make us closely related.

However, if we were to belong in the same family, then we could make consideration for a close relation. As part of the family Hominidae, we could argue that Chimpanzees or Gorillas are close relatives.

In the case of dogs and seals, both belong to the order Carnivora (flesh-eating mammals) and suborder Caniformia (dog-like carnivores). But after that, things start to drift apart. Dogs are considered part of the Canidae family which are true dogs. Seals, on the other hand, diverge into Pinnipedia, then Phocidae—or earless seals.

Fur seal
Image Credit: Nicram Sabod, Shutterstock

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What Other Animals Belong to the Same Order as Dogs?

Seals are not the only creatures to share a common order as dogs either.

These are several animals you wouldn't even think to be dog-related:
  • Bears
  • Raccoons
  • Badgers
  • Walruses
  • Sea Lions (eared seals)
  • Weasels
  • Otters
  • Ferrets
  • Minks
  • Wolverines

When you think of these animals, a dog isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But what is it that makes seals so different? Why are these automatically associated with dogs?

Why Do Seals Look Like Dogs?

While the seal and dog aren’t closely related, it’s super easy to see why people are willing to make that connection. Taking a look at their physical structure, seals have very dog-like skulls that lend to having similar faces. Also, dogs can exhibit those same deep, mournful stares that seals are known for.

Aside from having similar looks, they share the same lovable personality! You’ll find plenty of pictures and videos where seals are instinctively playful and inquisitive towards humans as if there were some deeper calling to be loyal.

dog and seal on the sea shore
Image By: Ulrike Mai, Pixabay

What Is a Dog’s Closest Taxonomic Relative?

Seals and dogs may share some commonalities way up the family tree, but seals aren’t the closest relative to your pup. That honor goes to the Gray Wolf. Every single domesticated dog breed—from Chihuahua to Mastiffs—is directly related to them. And that’s because they share a singular ancient wolf ancestor.

Unfortunately, this ancestor is no longer around due to evolutionary mutations and other extinction-level events. However, it can be said that different dog breeds are formed independently in several places around the globe.

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Closing Thoughts

Despite their large separation scientifically, seals can still hold the unofficial title of “Sea Doggos”. They’re just as lovable and cute as any other dog breed with some common physical traits as well.

However, just because they’re similar that doesn’t mean you should run up and start petting every seal you see. They’re not domesticated like the dogs we know and love. They’re still wild animals that can bite at any moment.

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