Survival of the Brutish

Elephant Seal Striking Sexy Pose

I’m too sexy for this beach.

Birds do it. Bees do it. Elephant seals certainly do it, but do they really need to be so rapey about it? It’s enough to make you wonder whether the males wouldn’t benefit more generally from some anger management classes.

Elephant Seals Cuddling

Awww, isn’t that cute?

Elephant Seal Getting Rapey


That’s at least what I found myself thinking while watching the antics of these behemoths at a rookery along the California coast near the Piedras Blancas lighthouse.

When not sleeping, the males were either rearing up to fight one another or using their enormous weight to pound a female into submission; often oblivious to the pups that sometimes got caught, and squashed, in the melee.

Elephant Seals Fighting

Judging from the large numbers of animals we saw, this breeding practice apparently yields more offspring than it kills. So good for them. But it does make you wonder, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Elephant Seal Mom and Pup

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17 Comments on “Survival of the Brutish”

  1. Animalcouriers April 12, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    Now, who’s going to offer anger management? Bagsey not me!


    • Brian April 12, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

      You ask a good question. Maybe we could recruit Gray Whales to help. They certainly seem to know how to, um, do it.


  2. Touring NH April 12, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Great pictures. I’d love to see them in person! Some day (sigh)


  3. lioandshezz April 12, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    I love the pictures as well!!! Hope I can see them in real…


  4. cravesadventure April 12, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    AMAZING Captures – love the elephant seals!!! Happy Friday:)


  5. Beachbums1 April 12, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    Amazing animals but I have to agree with you. The males are so violent. I saw a special once on them once and it was disturbing to say the least.


    • Brian April 12, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

      We felt the same way watching them.


  6. travtrails April 12, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    Great pictures. When I saw them (2009) same place they appeared lumps of flesh oblivious of surroundings.


    • Brian April 12, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

      They do that pretty well too. Although as pure lumps go, I think the harbor seals have them beat.


  7. Debra Kolkka April 12, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    They are not very attractive animals…especially the males.


    • Brian April 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

      Maybe that’s why they’re so angry. 🙂


  8. Betty Londergan April 12, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    I never knew “rapey” was a word — but how perfect for this post!! Loved the photos!


    • Brian April 12, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

      I’m not sure that it is a real word. But it seemed to convey the situation without being too serious.


  9. andytallman101 April 14, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    We don’t need to judge animal behaviour in the same way as we do human behaviour. Being a wild animal is a harsh life that’s almost never “fair”. I see it as fascinating and maybe a tad disturbing sometimes but I’ve never let it upset me. We’ve all got our work cut out for us trying to be good people and helping others to do the same – there’s no point creating extra work by worrying about what the animals are doing too 🙂

    PS. Awesome photos as always


  10. Ship's Cook April 15, 2013 at 3:48 am #

    Great photos


  11. amigail February 14, 2016 at 4:17 am #

    Hello, I am interested in using one of your photos in a campaign I am doing with Save Our Shores. Please email me at so I can give your more information.
    Thank you.



  1. Morning on the Coast | Everywhere Once - May 3, 2013

    […] Along the way I stumbled upon, almost literally, a couple of juvenile elephant seal males – sparring of course. […]


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