Grey seal in exhibit
Scientific Name
Halichoerus grypus
Geographic Range
Northern Atlantic coasts of North America and Europe
Fish, including Atlantic cod, sand eels, catfish, redfish, and flounder
Grey seal in exhibit Endangered Status Graph - Least Concern Endangered Status Graph - Least Concern

More Information

Grey seals are among the larger of the pinnipeds, with males averaging 7.5 feet long and 750 pounds. Males also have larger shoulders and necks with large folds of skin, along with darker coats and spotting on their bellies. Females have lighter coats with dark spots and patches. These marine mammals have short flippers with five claws at the end. They have good eyesight, and their hearing is better underwater than on land.

The seals are excellent swimmers, but they also spend much of their days lying out on rocks and beaches with other seals. On land, they move like a caterpillar, shifting their weight from front to back. They molt once a year. Females typically give birth to one pup; locations and times are different depending on the region.

Did You Know?

  • Grey seals are sometimes called “horsehead seals” because of their large, arched noses.
  • Grey seals have many adaptations to cold water, including a layer of blubber, dense fur, and a circulation system that brings blood to their extremities.
  • They swim by moving their rear flippers and the back half of their body and using the front flippers as rudders. They have top speeds of up to 23 mph, but normally stick to 6 mph or less.


Species Survival Plan logo

Species Survival Plan®

We cooperate with other members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to manage the zoo population of this species through a Species Survival Plan®.

Learn More

Animal Care staff working with seal

Commitment to Care

Lincoln Park Zoo prioritizes individual well-being over everything else. Guided by scientific research, staff and volunteers work to provide the best welfare outcomes for each individual in the zoo’s care.

Learn More

Support Your Zoo

Two Chilean flamingos in exhibit

Animals Depend On People Too

When you ADOPT an animal, you support world-class animal care by helping to provide specially formulated diets, new habitat elements, and regular veterinary checkups.

Adopt an Animal

Asian small-clawed otter in exhibit

Wish List

The Wish List is full of one-of-a-kind items for the zoo’s animals, including nutritious snacks and enrichment items to keep them active and healthy.

Browse the Wish List

African penguin eating a fish

Take Action With Us

Wildlife face many daunting challenges—some global, like planet-wide climate change, and some that affect individuals, like an animal ingesting plastic—but now is not the time to despair. None of these problems are too big for us to come together and solve.

Take Action

Empty Playlist