The ocean is perhaps one of the most fascinating wonders of the world, and the species that call it home are even more interesting. If you’ve ever wondered ‘what is the biggest whale in the world’, you are about to find out. If you perform a Google search of the largest whales, you will most likely find varying results, as there are wide differences in the recorded length and mass of the various species. It is far easier to measure the length of a whale than the weight, for obvious reasons. Between photographs and whalers records, researchers have been able to compile accurate measurements in lengths of whales, however, the weight is difficult to measure and is often based on rough estimates.
Many of the largest ever recorded mammals are extinct, but some of the whales on our list measure up to the ancient behemoths. While whales are intimidating mainly because of their overwhelming size, they are some of the most highly intelligent and friendly marine animals known to man. Despite stories such as Moby Dick, it is extremely unlikely that a human will be attacked by a whale. The largest whale on Earth is ginormous and perhaps one of the most well-known of its species.
Take a look at our list of the 10 largest whales on the planet, but rest assure, if you encounter one of these guys while out on the open waters, they are likely to be just as curious about you as you are of them.
1. Blue Whale
Not only is the blue whale our largest whale in the world, but it is also the largest animal on Earth. Measuring up to 100 feet and weighing as much as 150 tons, the blue whale is an extraordinary creature. Most blue whales today only reach lengths of 75-80 feet, as whale hunters are known to target the largest of the species. The blue whale’s body is long and slender and can be various shades of bluish-grey. Endangered since the 1960s, there are said to be only 5,000-12,000 blue whales left in the world.
2. Finback Whale
Our second largest whale is the finback, reaching nearly 90 feet in length and weighing roughly 74 tons. The finback whale, also called the fin whale, razorback, or common rorqual, is the second longest animal in the world and has been referred to as ‘the greyhound of the sea’ because of its slender body. The finback whale’s body is brownish-grey and, like other large whales, is now an endangered species because of commercial hunting practices.
3. Right Whale
Deriving its name from early whalers who coined these the ‘right’ whales to kill, the right whale is our third largest whale. With a large bulbous head covered in callosities, whale barnacles, worms, and whale lace, this whale is one of the ugliest on our list! Reaching nearly 60 feet in length and weighing upwards of 100 tons, the right whale has extremely high blubber content, meaning they produce high yields of whale oil.
4. Sperm Whale
The largest of the toothed whales, the sperm whale gets its name from the waxy liquid (or spermaceti) found in its gigantic head. Measuring up to 67 feet in length and weighing nearly 60 tons, the sperm whale is the deepest diving mammal and has the largest brain of any animal on Earth. Sperm whales like to feed on giant squid and males can typically be found in Antarctic waters.
5. Bowhead Whale
Related to the right whale, bowhead whales can reach up to 66 feet in length and weigh nearly 74 tons. The body of this whale is stocky and he has no dorsal fin. The bowhead is also known as the Greenland right whale or Arctic whale, mainly because it can mostly be found in the Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. A slow swimmer and popular whaling target, there are said to be only 24,000 left in the world.
6. Humpback Whale
Another well-known species of whale, humpbacks have been known to congregate in large groups near to land and draw attention to themselves. Reaching up to 52 feet in length and weighing nearly 80,000 pounds, humpback whales have a distinctive body shape, boasting long pectoral fins and a gnarled head. Humpback whales get their name from their tendency of raising and bending in the back in preparation of a dive. One of the slowest swimmers of all the whales on our list, tourist boats (and whalers) are often able to get close.
7. Orca Whale
Orca whales, or killer whales, actually belong to the dolphin family and are probably the most widely recognized whale species, thanks to their being held captive in marine aquariums worldwide. Orcas reach upwards of 32 feet in length and can be found in all oceans and most seas. One of the longest living whales, wild orcas can reach 50-60 years and most captive orcas live to be around 25. With the second largest brain of all mammals, the intelligence, trainability, and striking appearance make them popular aquarium exhibits.
8. Minke Whale
One of the lesser known whales on our list, minke whales are not thought to be as desirable to whalers as some of the other species. Typically measuring around 24 feet in length and weighing 10 tons, the minke whale is a black, grey, purple color. Minke whales can most commonly be found in the Northern Hemisphere and are in no danger of extinction.
9. Beluga Whale
Another distinct whale on our list, the beluga whale resides in the Arctic, as well as the seas and coasts around Russia, Greenland, and North America. Its unmistakable all-white coloring, missing dorsal fin, and gregarious nature all contribute to the popularity of the beluga whale. Male belugas can reach up to 18 feet and weigh up to 3,500 pounds. Not the most fit of whales, between 40% and 50% of a beluga’s body weight is fat!
The narwhal is another of our toothed whales and are distinguished by their long, straight tusk. Typically found in the Canadian Arctic and waters surrounding Greenland, the narwhal has adapted well to the arctic waters. Similar to the beluga whale, narwhals generally reach up to 18 feet in length and weigh upwards of 3,500 pounds. Their extremely long tusk, or canine tooth, is thought to be a secondary sexual characteristic.