Flying High: How High Can Orcas Jump?

how high can orcas jump

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Orcas, commonly known as killer whales are seriously impressive animals that are known for their aerial displays which involve leaping out of the water.

These top predators are found all over the world in every ocean and are highly intelligent, often working together to hunt prey much larger than themselves.

Killer whales can swim at speeds of up to 56km/h thanks to their streamlined bodies and powerful muscles.

This also gives them the force needed to leap out of the water and breach, as well as perform spectacular displays. But how high can orcas jump?

In short, orcas can jump as high as 20 feet (6 meters) out of the water, although it’s rare to witness them jumping this high in the wild.

Let’s get into it…

How High Can Orcas Jump?

Whilst there is no definitive answer to how high orcas jump, these marine mammals are capable of jumping out of the water as high as 20 feet.

The height of an orcas jump is influenced by a number of factors, including speed, strength, health, and the angle of its approach to the jump.

how high can orcas jump
Image by Bryce Bradford

It’s rare to witness orcas in the wild jump this high, but one of the highest orca jumps ever caught on film was an orca jumping 15 feet out of the water whilst chasing a dolphin.

The footage was captured off the coast of Mexico back in 2013 and looks fake at first, but it isn’t.

These animals are seriously powerful and when they want to are capable of bursting out of the water and leaping into the air at unbelievable heights.

Do Orcas Breach?

Yes, orcas certainly do breach (jump out of the water). It’s a common behavior that lots of whales exhibit, including humpbacks, gray whales, and dolphins.

They breach for a variety of reasons, with one of the most common being to interact and communicate with other members of their pod.

Breaching is also a way for orcas to stun and capture their prey, so they often do so when chasing down seals, dolphins, or other animals they’re chasing down.

It’s also a way for orcas to remove parasites from their skin, but equally important, breaching is a part of how orcas play.

Many researchers have observed young orcas in particular engage in breaching as part of play behavior.

Playing is just as important for orcas as it is for humans and one way to do so is to see how high they can breach.

Lots of cetaceans breach, it’s a complex behavior that can serve a range of purposes for orcas, dolphins, and whales.

Has An Orca Ever Jumped Out Of A Tank?

Orcas are EXTREMELY intelligent animals, arguably some of the most intelligent on the planet.

So it’s not often they decide to jump out of their tank where they know there is no water, and accidents don’t happen often with these animals.

Jumping out of the tank is very dangerous for orcas and anyone in the surrounding area, but it has happened.

Morgan, a female orca that was captive in Loro Parque in the Canary Islands leaped out of her tank in what was thought by animal activists to be a “suicide attempt.”

She beached herself and lay motionless outside of her tank for 10 minutes right under the Loro Parque sign.

Killer whales that beach for too long are quite literally crushed by their own body weight as they are unbuoyant and their organs begin to be crushed.

It’s truly alarming behavior and one that is extremely rare, and whilst part-keepers brushed the footage off as an exaggeration, there’s no doubt in my mind that this Morgan was highly distressed.

This orca was also seen around the same time repeatedly bashing her head against the metal gate in what’s thought to be to try and escape captivity.

But that’s not the only example of orcas jumping out of their tanks, below are a few more:

  • 1992, Corky jumped out of her tank during a performance at SeaWorld and landed on a platform, injuring herself.
  • 1999, an orca named J.J jumped out of of his tank in a theme park in France, killing himself.
  • In 2006, a captive orca named Orkid breached and landed on a trainer during a show in San Diego, causing injuries to the trainer.

In more recent years, there has been a growing movement to end orca captivity and for good reason, it’s not natural, is dangerous to both orcas and dangerous and is cruel on many levels.

Not to go too deep on the subject in this post, but these are highly intelligent, WILD animals that need to be roaming free in the oceans, their natural habitats.

Being kept in captivity in a swimming pool is not natural and causes these orcas distress, leading to unpredictable behavior that is dangerous to everyone involved.

Do Orcas Jump Often?

Orcas do jump out of the water regularly, whether it’s to socialize with their pod, play, or stun their prey during a hunt.

Breaching is a large part of orca society and plays a role in how these animals interact with one another.

Whether it’s to communicate, remove parasites or play, orcas jump out of the water all of the time and it’s truly a spectacle to witness.

how high can orcas jump
Image by Martijn Nijenhuis

If you are ever in a part of the world where it’s possible to see wild orcas, I strongly recommend you do so.

Witnessing orcas breaching out of the water is an experience I personally will never forget and it’s amazing to see these beautiful animals living their best lives in the wild.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, orcas are capable of jumping out of the water as high as 20 feet, with one of the highest ever recorded jumps being 15 feet.

These animals are fast, strong, and incredibly powerful, which allows them to launch themselves out of the water and up into the air with some force.

Breaching is very much a normal part of orca behavior and one that is regularly seen in the wild when observing orca.

In captivity, orcas are also regularly used for aerial displays and to put on a show, but as mentioned above, it’s very dangerous for both the trainer and the orca.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post today and learn more about orcas.

Catch you in the next one!