Short Finned Pilot Whales

The unusual appearance of pilot whales illustrates the extreme diversity within the dolphin family. They swim in pods of 20 to 90 animals throughout temperate and tropical oceans worldwide. The name “pilot whale” is believed to originate from the idea that the pods were piloted by a leader whale.

Pilot whales transcend human boundaries as they dive to depths of over 1,000 feet in search of squid and can reach swimming speeds of nearly 20 miles per hour when pursuing their prey.

Blue Horizons stars, Bubbles and Shadow, are the only two performing short-finned pilot whales in the world. Bubbles, approximately 47 years old, is about 15 feet long and weighs 2,800 pounds. Shadow, about 30 years old, is 13 feet long and weighs 1,800 pounds. Both eat a diet of squid and fish, consuming 5 percent of their body weight in food each day.

Q: How big do they get?
SW: Short-finned pilot whales reach lengths of 13 to 17 feet and weigh between 1,300 and 6,900 pounds.

Q: Are the endangered?
SW: Although they are not currently endangered, these whales face many threats including mass strandings, the cause of which is not yet entirely understood. You can keep pilot whales safe by properly disposing of household chemicals such as oil and paint to prevent dangerous household toxins from entering waterways.

Q: Are they really related to dolphins?
SW: Yes. Short-finned pilot whales (and long-finned pilot whales) are members of the scientific family Delphinidae, the dolphin family.