Walrus Definition | Characteristics & Facts


Walrus Definition

The term “walrus” refers to a large marine mammal belonging to the Odobenidae family. Walruses are easily recognizable by their distinctive features, including their massive size, long tusks, and prominent whiskers.

Walrus General Characteristics & Facts

Certainly! Here are some general characteristics and interesting facts about walruses:

Physical Appearance

Walruses are large marine mammals with a robust and bulky body. They have wrinkled, thick, and tough skin that is predominantly brownish or pinkish in color. Their foreflippers are broad and strong, and their hind flippers are webbed. These adaptations make them well-suited for swimming and maneuvering in water.


Adult walruses can grow to lengths of about 11-12 feet (3.3-3.6 meters) and weigh between 1,500 to 3,700 pounds (700 to 1,700 kilograms). Males are typically larger than females.


Walruses are famous for their long tusks, which are elongated canine teeth. Both male and female walruses have tusks, although those of males tend to be larger. The tusks can grow up to 3 feet (1 meter) in length and are used for various tasks such as digging for food, breaking through ice, and fighting.


Their favorite prey includes clams, mussels, shrimp, crabs, and sea cucumbers. They use their sensitive whiskers to locate food in the sediment.

Feeding Behavior

Walruses are skilled divers and can descend to considerable depths (up to 300 feet or 90 meters) to forage for food. They can stay submerged for several minutes, and their large lung capacity allows them to hold their breath for extended periods.

Social Structure

Walruses are social animals and often gather in large groups known as “haulouts” on ice floes or rocky shores. These gatherings can consist of hundreds to thousands of individuals. They communicate with each other using various vocalizations, including grunts and bellows.


Breeding season for walruses typically occurs during late winter or early spring. Males engage in aggressive displays and fights to establish dominance and access to females. Females give birth to a single calf after a gestation period of about 15 months. Walrus mothers are highly protective of their calves.


Adult walruses have few natural predators due to their large size and tusks. However, polar bears and orcas (killer whales) are known to prey on young walruses.

Conservation Status

As mentioned earlier, walruses are currently classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Climate change and habitat loss are significant threats to their survival, as they heavily rely on sea ice for various activities like resting and giving birth.

Cultural Significance

Walruses have been an essential part of the culture and subsistence of indigenous Arctic communities for thousands of years. They provide meat, blubber, ivory (tusks), and other materials used in traditional crafts.

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Physical Characteristics Walrus

  1. Size: Adult walruses are large and robust animals. Males (bulls) are typically larger than females (cows). On average, adult males can reach a length of 11-12 feet (3.3-3.6 meters), while females are slightly smaller, usually around 9-10 feet (2.7-3 meters) in length.
  2. Weight: Adult walruses are quite heavy. Males can weigh between 1,500 to 3,700 pounds (700 to 1,700 kilograms), and females generally weigh slightly less, ranging from 1,100 to 2,700 pounds (500 to 1,200 kilograms).
  3. Skin: Walruses have thick and tough skin, which is typically a brownish or pinkish color. Their skin is heavily wrinkled, especially in older individuals. These wrinkles help to increase their surface area, making them more buoyant in water.
  4. Blubber: Beneath their skin, walruses have a thick layer of blubber that serves as insulation and energy reserve. This blubber layer helps them stay warm in the frigid Arctic waters and provides a vital energy source during periods of fasting.
  5. Flippers: Walruses have four flippers – two foreflippers (front flippers) and two hind flippers (back flippers). The foreflippers are broad and strong, aiding them in swimming and movement on land or ice. The hind flippers are webbed, allowing for efficient swimming.
  6. Tusks: One of the most iconic features of a walrus is its long tusks. These tusks are elongated canine teeth and are present in both males and females. They can grow to be about 3 feet (1 meter) in length. The tusks are used for various purposes, including hauling themselves onto ice, breaking through ice to access breathing holes, and for defense and display during mating season.
  7. Whiskers (Vibrissae): Walruses have numerous sensitive whiskers called vibrissae around their snouts. These whiskers are equipped with nerve endings and help them detect prey in the muddy seafloor.
  8. Distinguishing Features: The tusks and prominent whiskers are what distinguish walruses from other marine mammals, particularly seals. Additionally, their size and distinctive body shape set them apart in the Arctic ecosystem.

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Scientific Classification of Walrus

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Odobenidae

Genus: Odobenus

Species: rosmarus

Key Locations of Walrus

  • Arctic Ocean
  • North Atlantic Ocean
  • North Pacific Ocean
  • Bering Sea
  • Chukchi Sea
  • Laptev Sea
  • Beaufort Sea
  • Greenland Sea
  • Kara Sea
  • East Siberian Sea
  • Hudson Bay
  • Svalbard (Norway)
  • Franz Josef Land (Russia)
  • Wrangel Island (Russia)
  • Nunavut (Canada)
  • Alaska (USA)
  • Northern coastal regions of Russia
  • Northern coastal regions of Canada

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FAQs Walrus

What does Walrus eat?

  • Clams
  • Mussels
  • Shrimp
  • Crabs
  • Sea cucumbers
  • Snails
  • Squid
  • Polychaete worms
  • Fish (such as cod, flounder, and sculpin)
  • Other benthic invertebrates
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