Western Isles
 Western Isles of Scotland

Seal Pups

Seal Pups: Grey Seal Pup

Seal Pups: Grey Seal Pup

Halichoerus grypus

Photograph © Debbie Bozkurt
Balranald RSPB Reserve - North Uist - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
1st November 2006

Grey Seal Pup or Common Seal Pup? Size, Coat and Markings

The appearance and colour of the pelt of a seal changes greatly depending on the age or sex of the seal, if the pelt is wet or dry, or if the seal is molting.

Grey Seal Pups Common Seal Pups
At birth a grey seal pup is about 3 - 3.5 feet length At birth a common seal pup is about 2 - 3 feet length
Females will grow to 6 - 7 feet length (2.2m) Females will grow to 4 - 5.5 feet length (1.5m)
Male will grow to 7 - 8 feet length (2.5m) Males will grow to 4.5 - 6 feet length (1.8m)


Grey Seal Pup Fur Colour

Grey seal pups are born with shaggy white fur, called lanugo, after 2 - 4 weeks it molts away.

(Lanugo looks very like the coat a sheep when the wool has started to grow back a couple of months after the shearing)

When the grey seal pup has shed it's white baby fur and developed it's dense waterproof pelt it begins begins to have the pelt markings of an adult, the male being a overall colour of dark-grey, brown or black, with sometimes a lighter patch around the neck or flanks.

The female will be lighter with a background colour of cream or gray, paler on the belly with dark blotches or spotting, some a lot of blotches, some a little, it varies and every seal has a uniquely different pattern.

Because their white baby fur is not waterproof, grey seal pups cannot swim until they have shed it.


Common Seal Pup Fur Colour

Pelt colour of common seal pup is usually light silvery-grey to black with a dark, spotted mottling, (less mottling on the belly) it is similar though less defined to the pattern of adult common seals.

About 25% of common seal pups are born with shaggy white fur, this is called lanugo, after a couple of weeks it molts away. The majority of common seals shed their white fur before birth.

Even with the white lanugo fur, common seal pups usually have some dark fur somewhere, head, flippers etc.

Usually common seal pups shed their white baby fur before birth and having already developed a dense waterproof pelt, they can swim almost immeadiately after being born.

The seal pup in the photograph above pup has already shed it's white fur, and it is about 2 months old. A person familiar with both species would know that the pelt is more that of a grey seal pup.  
Both species
often live
longer than
30 years


Look at another picture of a seal pup and try different identification technique.

Grey Seal Pup or Common Seal Pup?

Pupping Sites in the Western Isles
Head Shape Seal Pups and their Mothers
Size, Coat and Markings Abandoned or Injured Seal Pups
When you saw it  
Where you saw it  


Debbie's online photo album

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