Examples of dolphins interacting with people: playing, fishing, helping, surfing. Plus ancient dolphin art.

Dolphins Like to Play!


Dolphins like to play! Even among adults, they play with each other, with objects—and with their food. They even like to play with people, which may be why people enjoy dolphins so much.

Dolphins learn human games quickly, and they also make up their own games and teach them to people. They leap and somersault out of the water, and they body surf through the waves alongside human surfers—just for the fun of it!

People have admired dolphins and porpoises since the beginning of civilization. This ancient Greek mural was painted more than 3,000 years ago! It is one of the earliest known examples of dolphins in art.

Most dolphins love to ride and leap in the waves created by ships moving through the water. While riding these waves, dolphins can go more than 35 miles per hour without even moving their tails!

In some parts of the world, wild dolphins swim right up to the shore to play with people. But as friendly as these dolphins can be, it’s still important for people to be cautious when playing with them.

Scientists still wonder about dolphin intelligence. Dolphins and humans both have large brains with many folds. Does that mean dolphins are as smart as people? Actually, the folding pattern of a dolphin’s brain more closely resembles the brain patterns of hoofed mammals.

No one knows why dolphins push people or objects toward the shore, but they have done it many times. During World War II, a group of American airmen were stranded in a raft when two dolphins came along and pushed them toward land.

Dolphin balancing beach ball on its nose.Dolphins will play with almost anything—balls, feathers, driftwood, seaweed, and even their food when they are full. They also play with other sea animals—turtles, fish, seals, birds, and whales—whether the other animals want to play or not!

Even though dolphins have flippers instead of hands, they still use tools—another sign of intelligence. For example, they use coral reefs as a tool to catch fish. They corner the fish inside the barrier, then dart in to feed.

For thousands of years, people in Brazil have depended on dolphins to help them catch fish. When a school of fish approaches, the dolphin makes a splash in the water. Then the fisherman throws in his net. The dolphin eats the fish that don’t get caught in the net.