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Playfulness of the Dolphin
- General Information
- Examples of Games
Dolphins are generally playful animals. It is a fact that they spend most of their time playing. But how far do dolphins go with their playfulness? To answer this question, I'll illustrate this with a few examples:
There are stories about dolphins saving drowning people from the sea. These people had nearly drowned, but dolphins brought them to shore just in time. These stories are so beautiful that they resemble fairytales. Extensive research however has shown that these are only pure coincidences. The reason is mainly because of the dolphin's playful nature. More than once researchers have observed dolphins bringing a lot of things to shore, like rubbish and mattresses. This means that it is possible that a dolphin will bring a human being to shore instead of an object.
Dolphins are often observed swimming along with boats. This is not because they like the people on board the ship especially, but just because they enjoy the current of the boat. This has everything to do with the playfulness of the dolphin.
Dolphins that stay in a dolphinarium usually enjoy their stay. There are dolphins totally crazy about balls, hoolahoops, and the trainers themselves are also treated as a toy. Of all the toys that exist, humans are perhaps the most entertaining to the dolphins.
It is a pity that the attraction of humans on dolphins is nowhere as beautiful and as great as often thought. Humans are not a natural love for dolphins. Dolphins receive fish, attention, and people play all sorts of games with the dolphins. This is a bit of a pity, but dolphins are 'just' animals, as in the case of monkeys. The so called smiling is also not what it seems. Even if a dolphin is angry, it will keep on smiling. It is because of the way its face is structured, but we as humans often think that the animal is happy. That is our way of communicating and often, we tend to misunderstand the feelings of dolphins. (Go to the 'Social Intercourse and Communication' section of this website for more information)
In the next subchapter you can read more about the different games dolphins play. Multimedia fragments are also available.
Examples of Games
This section is a renumeration of different games, which dolphins participate in daily, either in dolphinariums or in the wild. Sometimes multimedia fragments are available with the game in question.
- Toys made by humans: In dolphinariums, the dolphins have toys like balls, hoolahoops etc. These toys are not naturally available of course, but they are appreciated by the dolphins. Some dolphins are so crazy about these toys, take for example a ball, that the trainers won't get the ball back once it has been given to the dolphin. The interest in toys differs in individual dolphins. Some want a ball to play with, while others prefer a hoolahoop. The interest in playing also differs in individual dolphins.
- Air rings: Air rings are special toys made by the dolphins. The dolphins dive down deep, and then they blow a beautiful round air ring through the blowhole. It looks like a hoolahoop of air. They would use it to swim through, or try to keep the ring down, or they would just look at it for fun.
- Humans: As this was said earlier, humans are a popular toy for dolphins. In a dolphinarium, this trait is easily spotted, and also on the beaches in Australia and Greece, you can see that humans are particularly interesting for dolphins. Dolphins like people because they can play with them (for example swimming, think of dolphinariums where this happens), and because they feed the dolphins fish.
- Swimming: Dolphins like swimming a lot. They can perform the craziest tricks, like jumping high in the sky, and then entering the water like a corkscrew. They like swimming along with sailing boats. A dolphin does not only like swimming, it is also very capable of doing it. In the water, dolphins (the tumbler) can reach a speed of around 40 kilometres an hour. This is comparable to the speed of a motorcycle.
- Each other: If they choose to do something different, they still have each other. They can chat to each other, swim together, blow air rings together. However they seem to find all the abovementioned activities more enjoyable than the activities they do with their peers.
"Dolphins and Whales (14)," Encyclopedia Grzimek (1974),
Vol. 11, page 506 - 570.
Encyclopedia Grzimek (1974),
Vol. Behaviour, page 49, 147, 156, 218, 221, 320.
Toinny Walet Lukken. Personal Interview. 15 June, 1998.