Why Do Labradors Look Like Seals? [Facts & Myths Analyzed]

By Benjamin Tash

Seals and certain dog breeds, including labradors, bear so much resemblance in terms of their looks and to a certain degree — their friendliness.

It’s no wonder why seals have gained the reputation of being known as the “sea of the dogs” for they are the spitting image of dogs — labradors in particular.

Could the resemblance actually mean they’re genetically interconnected at some point in history?

Here’s why Labradors look like seals:

Labradors and Seals have very similar skull, teeth and jaw structure that make them virtually indistinguishable if juxtaposed together. On top of that, Seals and Labradors are distantly related to each other under the Caniformia subcategory of the Carnivora clade in which Seals shared a common ancestry with dogs, bears, racoons, etc before splitting off about 24 million years ago. 

We’ll dive deeper into the shocking facts and mysteries of their resemblance you might never know of. 

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Are Seals and Labradors Related?

Seals and labradors are somewhat related to each other with common ancestry dated back to over 50 million years ago before the splitting occurred. That might have explained some of the remnant similitude between these two mammals that exist to this day. 

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The Carnivora clade.

As illustrated in the figure above, Seals and dogs in particular are members of the Carnivora clade, which comprises of cat-like (feliformia) and dog-like mammals (caniformia) subgroups respectively.

Dogs and Seals are categorized in the subgroup of the dog-like mammals, which is referred to as the Caniformia clade. Hence making them pretty closely related to one another compared to whales or even cats. However, there are other Caniforms such as raccoons, red pandas and skunks that are even more closely related to Seals than dogs. 

In a nutshell, seals are basically Caniforms that had diverged from its terrestrial dogs and bears over 46 million years ago and have since adapted to an aquatic lifestyle. 

Despite their split, some dog-like behaviors are still inherent in today’s Seals although their differences far outweigh them. 

Explore more on Why Do Labradors Look Different? (7 Reasons Explained)

Surprisingly similar traits between a seal and a labrador 

The factors behind the uncanny resemblance between seals and labradors also translate into characteristic similarities between the two — literally making them twins of the other species. 

Although labs and seals are different in a myriad of ways, the structure of their teeth, brains, skulls and jaws are virtually indistinguishable thanks to their shared common ancestry which goes back to 50 million years ago. Hence why seals are notoriously known as the “Dogs of the Seas”. 

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The other reason that might have contributed to the similitude between seals and labradors are their fur. Seals that are found higher up in the north are covered in fur or thick coats that bears so much resemblance to dogs. Just as labradors are equipped with a thick double layer coat, so do the seals which make them tolerant of cooler weather. 

The other traits that seals share with labradors are their affinity for water, social skills as well as their friendliness. These traits alone are enough to prove that labradors and seals have way more in common beyond their physical appearance and shared ancestry. Although some seals may not be cordial to strangers as labs would, but the majority are as they thrive on social contact with humans in general. 

Not only that, seals and labradors are also barkers for a myriad of reasons from attention to territorial defending as well as a means of communication within one another or with a human. That also goes without saying that both labs and seals are highly intelligent and are very adaptable to their surroundings, as proven by their solid relationship with human beings. 

Recommended reading: Why Are Labradors So Cute? (10 Reasons + Tips)

Differences between Labradors and Seals – Myths Debunked

Even though seals may look like labradors and tend to share various similar characteristics as a result of common ancestry, there are stark differences between the two. And here’s why seals cannot be deemed as the distant relatives of Labradors, apart from its difference in physical characteristics.

Seals have a much larger prey drive out in the brutally cold Artic & Antarctic waters compared to the Labradors. Those cute looks of seals can be deceiving as they are known to be fierce and skilled hunters capable of killing various aquatic creatures such as shrimps, lobsters, rays, squids, fish and even penguins as preys.

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Labradors on the other hand have a dormant prey drive which requires extensive training to be well versed in hunting. 

The other reason why seals are incomparable to labradors is because seals have way higher energy levels, primarily from the amount of fat stores they have. As a matter of fact, seals have a 45% body fat which provides insulation against the cold as well as a means of reserved energy store should they come ashore or go without food or water for weeks if not months. 

Also, seals rarely come up on land and if they do, they tend to move in a very uncoordinated manner as their hind flippers don’t rotate unlike a labrador who’s well versed on both land and water.

In contrast, seals are extremely graceful swimmers and they are able to dive as deep as 1600 feet below water and stay submerged for more than half an hour. 

That’s something a labrador could never do, hence why both of them are incomparable.

Check out also: Do Labradors And Dachshunds Get Along Well? (Complete Guide)

Would a labrador and a seal get along if introduced together?

In case you’re wondering whether or not a seal and a labrador would get along — I hate to break it to you, but they aren’t socially compatible long-term.

A video of a seal and a labrador briefly embracing each other as surfaced on the Internet may be the exception, but exceptions don’t make the rule. 

From a friendliness perspective, though Seals have been known to be extremely cordial and friendly to humans — they can lash out in retaliation if other animals/ humans tend to violate their personal space. Or if they sense a threat among other animals. 

On the other hand, Seals have a much higher prey drive than a Labrador does. This is definitely a recipe for disaster if a Seal is desperately in need of a prey for its next meal, and a Labrador would be just the perfect size of a prey given that Seals had no qualms in killing a human being before.

Not to mention how much more energetic a Seal is from all the fats it has — this alone should be a cautionary tale for any dogs in particular to limit as much contact as possible with a seal as seals are highly skilled hunters with great agility thanks to their energy. 

Last but not least, a Labrador bark may also be taken the wrong way by a Seal and consequently, it will either get into a defensive mode or it will quickly get put off by those barks altogether.

Even though a labrador and a seal may somewhat look like each other, but looks can be very deceiving as they are nowhere near compatible for each other long-term. 

On a separate tangent based on looks, explore more on Why Does My Labrador Look Like a Pitbull? (7 Reasons + Factors)

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Sources

Inverse: Are Dogs Related to Seals

Animal Spot: Seal Facts and Characteristics