Behind The Smile: Are Dolphins Friendly?

are dolphins friendly

Dolphins are truly remarkable animals that are known for their intelligence, problem-solving skills, and playful behavior.

They can be found in all seven oceans but often inhabit harbors, bays, gulfs, and coastal waters where they feed on a varied diet of fish, squid, and more.

These aquatic mammals have a reputation for being friendly and have been witnessed swimming right up to boats in an attempt to meet and greet people.

But is there a side to dolphins that is perhaps not so friendly? In this post, we’re going to find out exactly that and answer the age-old question. Are dolphins friendly?

So if this question has ever crossed your mind, sit back and relax as we dive deeper into dolphins’ personality traits and more.

Are Dolphins Friendly?

Yes, for the most part, dolphins are friendly animals that have a natural curiosity toward humans and interact with people in a playful and curious manner.

They seem to know that we’re also intelligent beings and may swim right up to swimmers or divers to investigate which can make for some wonderful experiences.

However, dolphins are highly complex and intelligent wild animals that can be unpredictable should they be treated with a lack of space or respect.

For this reason, it’s always important to be vigilant around dolphins. In some rare cases, dolphins may display aggressive behavior toward humans, especially if they feel provoked or threatened.

are dolphins friendly
Photo by TJ Fitzsimmons

Dolphins typically live in pods of between 5 and 30 individuals, but some super pods may be 100 or multiple hundred members strong.

They are known to be incredibly supportive to pod members and often build relationships with one another that last a lifetime.

Some scientists speculate that they may view humans as pod members which is why they are so friendly toward us.

The truth is, the exact reasons why dolphins are so friendly are unknown, but it likely involves a combination of factors that are not yet fully understood.

Do Dolphins Befriend Humans?

Yes, dolphins do befriend humans both in the wild and in captivity. Whilst they don’t form the same type of friendships as we humans do, dolphins do form strong bonds with certain humans.

In some cases, dolphins may seek out humans that they’ve had frequent positive experiences with, whether that’s to play, socialize, or interact.

Dolphins have been observed returning to specific harbors or areas to visit certain humans, it’s a truly fascinating behavior that shows how cognitive these animals really are.

It’s likely that these relationships are formed on trust and past experience as opposed to the more complex emotions and social dynamics involved in human relationships.

In some areas of the world such as southeastern Brazil, dolphins work together with fishermen to catch fish from the murky waters in return for a fishy commission.

It’s a fascinating relationship that works for both the local fishermen and the dolphins.

The relationship between humans and dolphins is a complex one, and those in captivity can form deep bonds with their trainers that last forever.

Over a period of time as the trainer works with the dolphin and feeds the animal, trust forms, and the relationship blossoms.

Are Dolphins Ever Aggressive To Humans?

It’s true that dolphins and humans can have remarkable friendships that are amazing to see, but it’s also true that there’s a darker side to dolphins that not many people know about.

These animals exhibit some horrifying behaviors, especially when it comes to sexual encounters during the breeding season.

Male dolphins will kill calves on purpose in order to breed with the mother, and sometimes multiple male dolphins will gang-rape a female and hold her hostage for sometimes weeks forcing her to mate.

Dolphins actively kill their porpoise cousins for no reason, probably for the fun of it, and they’ve even been observed using a baby shark as a volleyball during play.

There’s certainly more than meets the eye when it comes to dolphins, whilst complex and intelligent they do have some interesting behaviors that are not commonly seen in animals.

four dolphins swimming near some fish
Photo by Rudney Uezu

When it comes to aggression with humans, there have been some rare cases where dolphins have attacked and even killed humans.

In 1994, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a male dolphin named Tiao who was known to be friendly toward female swimmers brutally attacked two men in the sea after apparently seeing them as romantic competition.

One of the men tragically died from internal hemorrhaging after being butted and rammed multiple times, whilst the other man suffered a broken rib.

This isn’t the only attack on humans from dolphins, they frequently attack trainers when in captivity out of seemingly random bursts of aggression.

Whilst captive conditions are often cramped and stressful for these animals, it’s important to be cautious when dealing with dolphins in the wild or captivity as they are known to attack from time to time.

Do Dolphins Let You Pet Them?

NEVER, and I repeat, never attempt to touch a dolphin in the wild as this can be incredibly dangerous for you and the animal.

Petting and touching wild dolphins can be stressful for them and could cause them to feel threatened or uncomfortable, which could initiate an attack.

If you do encounter dolphins in the wild, give them space and do not initiate any type of contact even if they seem friendly.

Dolphins in captivity may be trained and have likely experience human touch many times, whereas wild dolphins likely have not and can react very differently.

Why Are Dolphins Friendly With Humans?

The reasons why dolphins are friendly with humans are not fully understood, but it’s thought to be a combination of natural curiosity, positive reinforcement, and being social creatures.

In the wild, dolphins are highly social animals that live in pods or communities with multiple, sometimes hundreds of members.

They play, hunt, sleep, and eat together which allows them to form incredibly strong bonds with members of their pods.

are dolphins friendly
Photo by Paul Orford

This could give dolphins a sense of safety and the confidence to explore their natural curiosity around humans.

It’s also important to note that these animals are extremely intelligent and have very large brains, they’re emotionally intelligent and seem to understand that we too are conscious intelligent beings.

Perhaps they feel a sense of connection with humans because of this which could be a reason why they are so friendly toward humans.

Wrapping Up

To wrap up, YES, dolphins are friendly. BUT, and there’s a big BUT, they should always be treated with respect and space as they are very much wild animals that can be unpredictable.

Dolphins are equipped with between 80 and 110 teeth that can easily inflict a lot of damage on a human.

They’re some of the most agile and efficient swimmers in the ocean, so if they wanted to pull a human under the water and hold them there they certainly could.

Whilst dolphins are generally friendly, there have been numerous attacks on humans that have even resulted in fatalities.

This is why you must always be cautious around dolphins, whether in the wild or captivity as there is a dark underside to these animals that make them dangerous.

Thanks for taking the time to learn more about dolphins today, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and I’ll see you in the next one.