Why Do Dolphins Like to Swim With Boats?

If you’ve been on a ship or boat in the open ocean or a channel, you may’ve had the thrill of seeing dolphins race alongside the vessel. So what gives? Why do dolphins chase boats like dogs chasing cars?

Dolphin swimming alongside boat

Dolphins have a unique and longstanding relationship with boats and boaters alike. They’re drawn to each other. We know why boaters are attracted to dolphins, but why do these aquatic mammals love to chase boats so much? 

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Dolphins and Boats

Dolphins are the smartest mammals in the water, and they have a sophisticated sense of reason and emotion. As a result, they have a natural desire to communicate. They also know that the presence of humans often means they’ll probably be getting fed.

Dolphin swimming with boats

For centuries, humans have fished out on the open water, and dolphins have found nets are an easy way to snatch a meal. They also know that people on fishing boats sometimes throw scraps overboard, which also makes for an easy meal. 

Dolphins Are Surfers

Besides food, efficiency is another great reason for a dolphin to follow a boat. As a boat moves through the water, it cuts a wake that allows the dolphin to cover a lot of distance at high speed with very little effort. If a smart group of dolphins finds a cruise ship, they can swim in its wake for miles expending very little energy.

Dolphin swimming in boat's wake

Dolphins Are Showoffs

Large pods of dolphins can contain more than one subspecies integrated into the group. And inside that group, the different species will often attempt to one-up each other with tricks. For the dolphin, a sophisticated animal, it’s just plain fun.

Dolphins Are Curious

Finally, these marine mammals are naturally curious creatures. Large boats produce a lot of noise and vibration in the water, and dolphins love to check out what’s going on. 

Dolphins swimming under boat

Some dolphins over time find that they like swimming behind one type of vessel or another, and get excited when they hear one coming across their habitat. And that’s where the fun begins, for both the dolphin and the boaters, as it's essentially showtime!



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