Are Beluga Whales Dolphins?

No, beluga whales are not dolphins at all. They are not a part of the dolphin family rather; they are from the family Monodontidae (a family of mammals). They are classified as toothed whales under Monodontidae.

Besides these facts, I will let you know how beluga whales and dolphins differ because we won’t be able to understand what a beluga is without knowing about dolphins. Also, you will know how they differ from dolphins regarding their shape, form, and looks.

Let’s dive deep into the sea of insights to learn more about it.

Are Beluga Whales Dolphins or Whales?

Beluga whales are more closely related to the whale family than to dolphins. The beluga whale is one of the loudest whales and dolphins are also one of the most fascinating. They have melodious vocalizations that are so loud they can be heard through the hulls of boats and even from the surface of the water.

They are one of only two cetacean species that can mimic human facial expressions by rounding their lips when making certain sounds. The two families (beluga whales and dolphins) have some common characteristics, but they are very different from each other.

The main difference between a beluga whale and a dolphin is their shape and form. The biggest difference is the very short and wide head of a beluga, which is more reminiscent of an orca. A slight puff on the upper lip usually indicates its speech.

Also, the tail is low and long, and the upper jaw protrudes from the top of the mouth. All this makes the beluga much different from its cousin dolphins.

Why Is a Beluga A Whale and Not a Dolphin: What are the Differences?

Both dolphins and whales belong to the order Cetacea and are the largest terrestrial mammals in the world. Cetaceans are also referred to as ‘whales’ because they are huge marine mammals that evolved millions of years ago.

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Within the Cetacea order are two suborders:

  • Mysticeti – the “great” whales or baleen whales
  • Odontoceti – the toothed whales

And here, we come to know that the beluga is a toothed whale from the Cetacea order but falls under the category of Odontoceti. Thus, it clearly shows that a beluga is a whale, not a dolphin.

Moreover, the dolphins found in the ocean are members of the family Delphinidae, which is classified among the toothed whales.


Taxonomically speaking, all dolphins can be categorized as whales, but not all whales can be classified as dolphins.

This is because whales and dolphins come from different families and share distinct physical characteristics and genetic makeup.

smart beluga
Beluga Whale

Beyond size, here are a few key differences between beluga whales and dolphins:

Key Differences Between Beluga Whales and Dolphin

  • A beluga whale’s dorsal fin is much smaller or nonexistent in comparison to that of a dolphin.
  • When it comes to supporting their heads, beluga whales have fused neck vertebrae over time, while dolphins are more pliable.
  • Beluga whales eat microscopic crustaceans like krill and copepods, while dolphins eat fish and squid that are large enough to be grasped by their teeth.
  • Dolphins are far slimmer than beluga whales, with more of a torpedo form and longer beaks.

Hence, there are many differences between beluga whales and dolphins. The most notable is that dolphins are easily distinguished from beluga whales by their differently shaped heads, and they also have many ways in which they differ, as well as being closer cousins.

As for us, it’s evident that the beluga and dolphins are closely related, but we need to learn the difference between them. In that way, we can better appreciate their beauty and understand how they are so different.

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Why Do Beluga Whales Look So Much Like Dolphins?

I don’t think beluga whales look so much similar to dolphins, but both are related. Furthermore, a mammal’s shape and form depend on the type of feeding (diet) they feed on.

Belugas like the krill and the small fish that are small enough to be grasped by their teeth, so they have a very short beak that is used to suck in the tiny shrimp-like animals.

In comparison, dolphins are known for their giant mouths with long rows of teeth. They also have a tongue with small and long, needle-like teeth at the front that they will use to tear the fish or mollusks apart. These differences are easy to see, and this is where it all begins.

Belugas and dolphins are also distinguished by their different modes of life. Beluga whales are mainly found in the open ocean, whereas dolphins are more active in shallow and in-shore areas.

Beluga whales are nocturnal and are generally found in the ocean from May to October, while dolphins are active 24/7 and are very popular tourist attractions in many parts of the world, particularly in Florida.

Are Beluga Whales Smarter Than Dolphins?

The brain size of beluga whales is bigger than dolphins’ brain size and belugas are considered the smartest and most intelligent animals on earth.

This reveals the fact that belugas are smarter than dolphins. However, scientists reveal that certain dolphins have higher IQ levels than beluga whales.

Are Beluga Whales Friends with Dolphins?

Beluga whales are fascinating animals related to dolphins. Belugas are known to be quite jovial, often engaging in playful behaviors such as chasing one another, spitting water at one another (and at humans), rubbing up against one another, calling to one another, creating toys out of objects they find floating around, and even swimming up next to boats to peer in.

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Are Beluga Whales Playful Like Dolphins?

Yes, beluga whales are as playful as dolphins. As intelligent and curious animals, belugas also tend to be fairly lively. This is because they use play to learn about themselves and their surroundings.

Are Beluga Whales Faster Than Dolphins?

No, beluga whales swim and dive slowly as compared to dolphins. They are slower swimmers because they are less streamlined and can’t fully utilize the propulsion afforded by the movement of their tail fins. However, they do their best to swim with the dolphins.

They typically swim at speeds between 1.9 and 5.6 mph (between 3 and 9 km/h) but can sustain a speed of 22 km/h for up to 15 minutes. They can reverse their direction of swimming, making them unique among cetaceans.

Belugas spend just 5–10% of their time at the surface and the remainder at a depth deep enough to cover their entire body. Contrary to popular belief, they do not perform aerial flips out of the water.


It’s clear from the above explanation that Beluga whales are not dolphins. They are very different, but they are fascinating mammals with unique behaviors.

Learning more about them is enlightening and the key to understanding their natural habits and behavior.

They both represent incredible marine mammals that are immensely amazing, intelligent, and worthy of being our friends.

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