When Whales Attack: Are Whales Aggressive?

are whales aggressive

Whales can be found in every ocean on earth, from the icy waters of Antarctica to the warm, tropical waters of in Indian ocean.

There are around 40 different whale species total that range from the largest animal that has ever lived, the Blue whale, to the small Dwarf sperm whale which is no bigger than a dolphin.

Whales are highly intelligent animals that are curious about humans, and they interact and cross paths with people every single day.

Coming across an ocean giant can be daunting for many, therefore, a very relevant and important question to ask is “are whales aggressive?

NO, whales are not aggressive. They do not display aggressive behaviors towards humans and are not out to hurt people. Whilst they are curious by nature, there’s no intent of aggression from whales towards humans.

Are Whales Aggressive By Nature?

As a species, whales are NOT aggressive by nature. They are truly gentle giants that are highly complex, social animals.

That said, whales are HUGE. Much larger than any other animals on earth and up to 2,400x the size of a human being.

are whales aggressive
Image: Chris Buelow via Flickr

If a whale feels threatened, frightened, intimidated, or provoked it will not hesitate to defend itself, and an upset whale is not an enemy you want to make.

Are Any Whales Aggressive?

As mentioned, all whale species are non-aggressive, but there are some whales that are more aggressive than others.

Killer whales, also known as Orcas are the top predators in the ocean. Their supreme intelligence combined with hunting as a pod makes them a feared opponent for any marine species.

Although technically dolphins, killer whales share a lot of characteristics with whales and are widely considered to be whales.

Killer whales are the most “aggressive” of the “whale” species but in actual fact, even killer whales do not intentionally attack or cause harm to humans.

Whilst they are excellent hunters in nature and make quick work of their prey, they’re intelligent enough to know that we humans are off the menu.

Many people have wonderful experiences with wild Orca all over the world. However, in recent times off the coast of Spain and Portugal, Orca have been witnessed attacking small sailboats.

It’s still unclear why they are doing this, whether they see the boat as competition due to its small size or are simply doing it for fun, it’s still unknown.

How Do Whales Attack?

Whales are not very well equipped for attacking, they mostly rely on their sheer size to defend themselves against any predators that dare to take on such a large animal.

When whales are attacked and need to defend themselves, they thrash their large tails (flukes) around in hopes to strike their attacker, which is often enough to cause the attacker to be panicked and flee.

A successful strike from a whale’s fluke can easily kill most marine animals, so most predators do not even attempt to attack whales.

Some species such as humpbacks have large pectoral fins that can be 8 feet long which combined with their tail can be used to slap their opponent.

When killer whales attack, they use their large, sharp teeth to rip chunks out of their prey, often targeting the flank where most prey are most vulnerable.

They too use their tails to attack, as well as their large bodies which they will ram into prey in hopes of injuring or disorientating them.

Whilst this may seem terrifying to some, it’s important to remember that whales DO NOT attack people and there has never been a recorded human death from a killer whale.

Would Whales Attack Humans?

If a whale really wanted to, it could kill a human in the blink of an eye, but they’re highly intelligent creatures that are well aware we are not prey or a threat to them.

These animals are enormous, so for the most part they do not feel threatened or intimidated by us small humans.

However, should a human provoke, attack, or threaten a whale, then there is a chance that the whale will retaliate and attack which would almost always prove fatal for the human.

Whales attacking humans is INCREDIBLY rare, and it’s only happened in a few isolated cases where captive killer whales have attacked their trainers.

killer whale in the wild

In the wild, killer whales are happy and free, posing no threat to humans that are lucky enough to come across them.

Orcas and humans have had some amazing experiences in the wild. These apex predators actively avoid causing harm to humans and are more curious than anything else.

Are Whales More Aggressive Than Sharks?

NO, whales are not more aggressive than sharks. Some species of shark such as the bull shark can be very aggressive and are known to be the most dangerous species to humans.

Great white sharks are the most aggressive sharks in the world and have recorded 333 attacks on humans with 52 being fatal.

Whilst killer whales are the more dominant predators, they are much less likely to cause harm to humans than sharks.

Whales are truly gentle giants that are much more intelligent than given credit for, whilst some sharks are quite literally killing machines that show high amounts of aggression.

It’s important to note that just because an animal is aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean that its dangerous to humans.

Sharks too are aware that we’re not on the menu, so whilst some are very aggressive, most human attacks occur through misidentification.

Should I Be Scared Of Whales?

Encountering a whale in the wild can be scary at first. They often breach out of seemingly nowhere and their sheer size can take your breath away.

But If you’re ever lucky enough to encounter a whale in the wild you should NOT be scared.

Whales are truly majestic creatures that are non-aggressive and gentle in nature. They pose no threat to humans and are often curious and friendly toward people.

In some areas of the world such as the warm lagoons of Baja, Mexico, gray whales will even swim up to boats to be stoked, hugged, and even kissed by humans.

It’s the only place in the world where whales actively encourage human interaction and LOVE it.

Mother gray whales will even push their calves up to boats to be stroked and feel a human’s touch.

Final Thoughts

Whales interacting with humans is a truly magical thing. There is no need to be scared or nervous around even the largest whale species.

While it is important to always be cautious as they do have the capability to cause a lot of harm with one tail strike, whales are not aggressive or a threat to humans.

If you’re ever in an area of the world where you may come across whales in the wild, I encourage you to do so and make the most of the experience.

These ocean giants are magnificent and a true spectacle to witness in person.

So, are whales aggressive? No, not at all. Whales are non-aggressive marine mammals that pose no threat to humans so long as they are treated with respect and care.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I’ll catch you in the next one!