Walruses are impressive and iconic mammals. They have several characteristics that make them easily distinguished from other animals. However, walruses also share some features with other animals. You may be surprised to hear that walrus have similarities to rats!
A walrus is a marine mammal. The walrus is the only living member of the family Odobenidae, within the class Pinnipedia, order Carnivora, class Mammalia, and phylum Chordata. Walruses spend their life in and out of the water, unlike other marine mammals which are fully aquatic.
Keep on reading to find out more about what walruses are, how to refer to them, and what characteristics they have.
Are Walrus Mammals?
Yes, walrus are mammals. They belong to the class Mammalia and have the basic characteristics that we would expect from a mammal such as being warm-blooded, having fur or hair, having a complex brain (due to the presence of a neocortex), and producing milk for their young1 (source: Britannica).
More specifically, walrus are marine mammals. This means that walruses are dependent on the ocean to survive2 (source: SeaWorld). However, they are not fully aquatic, as they spend one-third of their life outside of water on average3 (source: SeaWorld).
Are Walrus Vertebrates?
Yes, walrus are vertebrates which means that they do have a backbone (vertebral column). They have many of the typical characteristics of vertebrates, for example, two pairs of limbs, in the form of flippers, a distinct head, and bi-lateral symmetry which means that they look the same on the left as the right4 (source: Britannica).
Are Walrus Related to Seals?
Yes, walruses and seals are related, they belong to the same taxonomic group called Pinnipedia. This means that Walruses and seals are “pinnipeds”, alongside sea lions5 (source: Wikipedia). Pinnipeds are carnivorous marine mammals that have both front and rear flippers6 (source: The Marine Mammal Centre).
It is relatively easy to tell walruses apart from seals and sea lions. This is because walruses grow much larger and have elongated teeth called tusks7 (source: J.N. Winer, et al, Journal of Comparative Pathology, Vol. 155, Issues 2–3, pp.242-253, 2016). Despite popular belief, these are rarely used for fighting, see our full article to find out exactly why walrus have tusks.
Where Does the Walrus Get its Name?
The name “walrus” originates from a Danish word. The Danes used to refer to walrus as “hvalros” which means “sea cow” or “sea horse”.
What is a Group of Walruses Called?
A group of walruses is called a herd. Walruses tend to gather in large herds, with estimated sizes of more than 55,000 individuals in 20188 (source: A.S. Fischbach, et al, The Journal of Wilflife Management, Vol. 86, Issue 6, 2022). However, walruses can gather in herds as small as 10 individuals9 (source: SeaWorld).
A “nursery herd” is when a group of baby walruses (that are more than two days old) gather together. A nursery herd is separate from adult herds. As many as 200 baby walruses can gather in a nursery herd, however, the herd size is usually between 20 to 50 walruses10 (source: SeaWorld).
What is a Baby Walrus Called?
What is Plural for Walrus?
The plural form of walrus is either walrus or walruses. The usage of the plural form is often personal preference. However, “walrus” is often used when referencing multiple walruses as a collective12 (source: Dictionary.com).
Are Walrus Fish?
No, walruses are not fish, they are marine mammals. There are many differences between fish and marine mammals. For example, walruses do not have gills whereas fish do13 (sources: N.Kohno, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Vol. 26, Issue 2, 2006 and Wikipedia).
Are Walrus Reptiles?
No, walruses are not reptiles. Walruses are part of the Mammalia class, whereas reptiles are found within the Reptilia class. There are numerous differences between mammals and reptiles. For example, unlike reptiles, mammals produce milk, have fur or hair, and have middle ear bones14 (source: Wikipedia).
What Family Does the Walrus Belong To?
The walrus belongs to the family Odobenidae. The family Odobenidae used to be widespread, however, the walrus is the only surviving member15 (source: N.Kohno, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Vol. 26, Issue 2, 2006).