Photo: Chase Dekker/Shutterstock

Dolphin Stampedes Are a Thing, and They're Pretty Freaking Epic

by Matador Creators Jan 10, 2023

Dolphins aren’t the first mammals that come to mind when you think of stampedes, but dolphins do, in fact, stampede. And it’s one of nature’s most spectacular sights. There’s something magical about spotting hundreds of dolphins swimming in unison that just can’t be replicated anywhere else — just take a look at the video filmed in Southern California below. If you’re curious about what causes this mesmerizing and confounding behavior, read on to learn everything we know — and don’t know — about dolphin stampedes.


Spectacular sighting of a long-beaked common dolphin “stampede” off the Southern California coast. 🐬🌊 📍San Diego, California Ig: @taylor.parent / @legacywhalewatch

♬ original sound – Visit

What are dolphin stampedes?

Dolphin stampedes are when dolphins swim side by side in large groups, usually numbering in the hundreds and possibly even thousands. It almost looks like they’re racing each other, occasionally leaping out of the water in a maneuver known as “porpoising” that allows them to gain incredible momentum. Dolphin stampedes typically happen relatively close to shore due to the presence of food sources like fish, which draw dolphins closer to land. They also occur when there are large schools of fish nearby, which become an irresistible snack for dolphins.

Why do dolphin stampedes happen?

It’s still unclear why, exactly, large groups of dolphins stampede, but it could be related to the need for safety in numbers or because the dolphins are chasing prey together — or both. There have been many theories proposed over the years but no definitive explanation of the phenomenon. Whatever the reason may be, one thing remains true: Watching a huge group of dolphins swimming together in synchronicity is an experience that cannot be conveyed through words alone — you simply have to witness it yourself.

Where can you see dolphin stampedes?

Dolphin stampedes can be witnessed pretty much anywhere there’s a body of water with abundant populations of dolphins and fish. However, some areas are better than others for viewing this amazing spectacle — in Southern California, for example, such as in the video above that captures a massive pod of dolphins stampeding off the coast of San Diego. While you might have luck in other popular dolphin-watching locales such as Australia and New Zealand, Southern California’s waters are said to have more dolphins per square mile than anywhere else on Earth — so that’s a pretty good place to book a dolphin cruise if you’re hoping to see a dolphin stampede in person.

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