The walrus has garnered a reputation for being a party animal. But how did this reputation come about in the first place? The walrus is, by nature, an incredibly sociable animal. With its moustache and long-tusk, the walrus is often sighted near the Arctic Circle, lounging away on the ice with its companions and friends.
These marine mammals are a naturally friendly bunch. As they party away, they are prone to loud bellowing and snorting at one another. Despite their general congenial way of being, they can become aggressive during mating season.
Walruses tend to gather in large herds. They are not solitary and prefer to spend their time in groups. They hang out on pack ice for a large portion of the year. But when the ice melts, they haul out to land at predictable locations.
With their wrinkled brown and pink hides, walruses are distinguished from other groups that lounge on the ice by their long white tusks and grizzly whiskers.
The walrus has played a prominent role in the cultures of many indigenous Arctic peoples. They are hunted for meat, fat, skin as well as their tusks and bone. The walrus’s body shape is similar to that of sea lions and seals. Due to the walrus’ large size and tusks, the animal has only two natural predators: the orca and the polar bear.
Traditionally, the indigenous peoples of the Arctic used all parts of the walrus. The meat, which was often preserved, is an important source of food during winter. The walrus’ flippers were fermented and stored as a delicacy until spring.
Their tusks and bone were used to make tools and handicrafts. Their oil was used for warmth and light. Their tough hide made rope as well as house and boat coverings. The intestines and gut linings made waterproof parkas.
While some of these indigenous uses have faded as we started to have access to alternative technologies, the meat of the walrus remains an essential part of the diet among indigenous communities in the Arctic. Tusk carving and engraving still remains a vital art form.
The walrus is symbolic of socialisation and the coming together of friends. Perhaps in the event that a person is in need of affectionate companions–especially that of a group–the spirit of the walrus will guide it to where it needs to go to find their community.