Welcome… to the Friends of Horsey Seals, a group run by volunteers


Around half of the world’s population of grey seals are found around Britain, therefore their protection is of international conservation importance. The scientific name Halichoerus grypus means “Hook-nosed Sea Pig”! It is one of our largest mammals but is still vulnerable to disturbance during the pupping season.

Grey seals come ashore to breed – the breeding site is known as a rookery or haul-out. The females (cows) arrive at the breeding sites first and will usually give birth a day later. As mammals they feed their pups on their milk for three weeks, keeping a close territory.

When the males (bulls) arrive they compete for space nearest to the cows. The fittest bulls get the best positions for mating. If pups get disturbed they may move into a bull’s (or other cow’s) territory, where they could get injured or even killed.

After the pup is weaned (approximately three weeks) the mother will leave. Over the next few weeks the pup will moult its soft white coat for a mottled waterproof one; it will not feed during this time and relies on the fat it built up by feeding (undisturbed) from its mother earlier on. When it gets hungry enough it will make its way to the sea where it will learn to feed itself.


  • Bulls can grow to over 3m in length and weigh more than 300kg. Cows are much smaller and about half the weight.
  • The mother’s milk is 60% FAT – the consistency of condensed milk (a bit like our Christmas diet!) Pups put on 2kg of weight PER DAY!
  • Pups are born with a warm white coat that is not waterproof. When they moult and get their waterproof coat they have to learn to live at sea and teach themselves to catch food.
  • More than half of the pups born won’t survive their first year.
  • When they have weaned their pups the females will mate. After a delay the pregnancy will start in time for the mother to give birth at the breeding site next year.


  • Stay a good distance away from the seals
  • Look out for seals in the dunes and give them a wide berth
  • Be careful – seals have a nasty bite
  • Keep dogs on a lead
  • Keep to marked viewing areas and respect the fencing
  • Remember grey seals are wild animals and should not be approached
  • Respect other visitors

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