Dogs And Bears Are Closely Related To Seals

“When a dog wags her tail and barks at the same time, how do you know which end to believe?” —Tom Dobbs, Man of the Year

In A Nutshell

Dogs may be thought of as either their own group, or a slightly removed counterpart to the cat. However, dogs (Caniformes) find much closer relatives in the water, not among cats (Feliformes). Sea lions and seals are not related to other marine mammals, but are actually Caniformes, just like bears and the domestic dog.

The Whole Bushel

Seals and the rather incorrectly named “sea lions” are carnivores, very similar to land predators. These animals are not in any way closely related to whales, but they do have a surprisingly close link to modern bears, dogs, and weasels. Cats compose an entirely different sub-order of the carnivore group known as Feliformes, which are not represented in water.

Pinnipeds possess massive canine teeth that may compete with the most powerful Rottweiler guard dog, and thus should be considered the oceangoing equivalent of a wolf or even a small bear. Their order name, “Caniformia,” literally means “dog-like.”

When you see one of these flipper-equipped aquatic animals, you should remember you are basically looking at a very specifically evolved, fish-eating water canine. When examined, the flippers of some pinnipeds will show remaining hind claws that rather resemble human nails. Maybe it’s time to start calling sea lions “sea bears” or “water dogs.”

Show Me The Proof

Fin-footed Mammals
Caniformia: caniform carnivores

  • Lyon

    Thx. I was looking too buy a dog, but couldn’t decide on what breed it should be.
    now I’ll take the seal (with the least clubbing experience)

  • rhijulbec

    Very interesting and funny in a way. Who would have thought?? Apparently panda bears are relatives of the raccoon, not actual bears.

    • TonyJackson1

      No, you are wrong. Pandas are bears and scientists list it in the Ursidae (bear) family.

    • Azrael Pytho

      red panda looks like a red raccoon, but its a species of Ursidae, separate from bears and raccoons all together listed with 7 other bear species. The panda is more closely related to bears then raccoons

    • YllwMonky456

      red pandas belong to a family closely related to weasels and raccoons, it’s the black and white pandas that are actually bears.

  • ADC

    I’ve always felt there was a connection between the two (dogs and seals). They are both so unique and amazing!

    • Steve Bakewell

      Its mostly the face which seems similar the snout&whiskers and the googly eyes all remind me of a Dog.

  • Starrk

    It’s a water dog!

  • Tyler Miller

    I also heard that in tenth grade biology wolves are related to the dolphin and that whales and the like are related to Hippopotamus

  • PJ_el_Profe

    The Spanish name Lobos de Mar (Sea Wolves) is much more accurate.

    • Rob Maher

      But then “Sea Wolves” in English refers to Orcas (or “Killer Whales”), which actually are not whales at all, but part of the dolphin family. We English speakers are all mixed up.

  • J Nutter

    their snouts and barks are a lot of the same. And they both love humans!

  • PeterT

    I’ve noticed when diving that seal behaviour is very similar to dogs. They play with divers the same way dogs play with humans.

  • siluriformes

    Dogs & seals have the same adorable face, big bedroom eyes, whiskers, and cute nose. They are playful and both baby animals are called pups. Love them so much!!


    yes, in Kerala there are called neernaya, which translates to waterdog

  • Sarahn van Weeren

    In the Netherlands we call them “Zeehond” which means Seadog.

  • Adam Bricker

    Sea faring people have been calling them “sea dogs” forever

  • Timmy Chan

    In Chinese, we call them «sea dogs» (海狗) instead of «sea lions »

  • Kam Musser

    I knew it

  • Tracy Broomfield

    Sea dogs.

  • Weaving Spider

    My dog looks like a sea lion.
    I had no idea they are related though.