Lexi Yeo thought dolphins were friendly creatures until swimming with them changed her mind forever. Out of nowhere, an aggressive bottlenose dolphin started to bite her, and then another one joined the attack. They tried to drag her underwater. It wasn’t a fair fight, and the odds were against the little girl since she needed to keep her head above water to keep breathing. Could she fight them off until help arrived?
Dolphins are often perceived as smiling, cute marine creatures that won’t hurt a fly. But like many other large mammals, if they attack they can badly hurt humans. And trust me, they’re big. Bottlenose dolphins can grow almost 4 m (13.1 ft) long and weigh up to 200 kg (442 lb). Today we put together a list of people who have faced the wrath of these marine creatures and survived to tell their incredible stories. What should you do when encountering a dolphin in the wild? How could you avoid drowning during the attack? And why should you never trust a smiley dolphin?
Number 3. Smiley but deadly
In July 2014, a man was enjoying a summer swim on the coast of Ireland when suddenly he felt something pushing him underwater aggressively. When he realized it was a bottlenose dolphin lashing out at him, he was shocked. The confrontational creature launched at him one more time with its tail, trying to pull him underneath the water again. The man didn’t sustain any serious injuries, but he was lucky to survive being drowned by one of these massive mammals. Dolphins might have smiling faces, but that’s just the way their jawline is. They are not inviting you to touch them or come too close. The lesson here is never to swim with a dolphin in the wild since it’s highly likely that it could attack without provocation. Instead of looking for their smiles, you should be looking for their signs of aggression. But if you want to know what those look like, you’ll have to stick around for our number one story.
Number 2. Bloody vacation
Let’s go back to Lexi’s story. The two mammals turned her vacation in Cancun, Mexico into a nightmare by gnawing at the 10-year-old, then rammed at her. Lexi was terrified and screamed for help. Then the already bloody attack got worse as both dolphins continued to drag her underwater. Some trainers at the closed sea pen told the animals to stop, but they continued their attack.
As Lexi’s mom watched the vicious attack, she was afraid that her daughter was going to die. Lexi kept ahold of a bodyboard, and it helped her keep afloat until a trainer pulled her out of the water. She suffered cuts, bruises and puncture wounds in her legs and feet, but she survived because she did the right thing. She held onto an object that could keep her afloat and she held on until a trainer helped her to safety. If you think this attack was extreme, wait until you hear the next one.
Number 1. Broken trust
On a summer evening in 2014, Valerie Ryan decided to go for a swim off the coast of County Clare, Ireland. She saw a woman playing with Dusty, a well-known dolphin that inhabits the waters. The mammal was happily enjoying belly rubs from the woman, so Valerie thought it would be OK to join the fun. But when Valerie entered the water, Dusty came at her. At first, Valerie thought it was just a display but when she felt the angry dolphin’s snout plow into her, she knew it was a vicious attack. She swam to the pier, but her injuries were so painful that she couldn’t get out of the water. She screamed for help, and a man reached out his hand to help her out of the water. The hospital staff discovered that Valerie had six spinal fractures, three broken ribs and a damaged lung. Even a year after the incident, she needed physiotherapy treatments to help reduce the remaining pain. Valerie survived because she was able to identify that the dolphin’s flapping tail was a sign of aggression and she took the right decision to get out of the water immediately. Incredibly, all these people survived brutal attacks by dolphins.
- Dolphin jumps out of water and bites 6-year-old boy’s hand – WATCH. Agrawal, A. (2021). Times Now News.
- Warning after dolphin ‘aggressively pushed man underwater’ off Irish coast. (2014). BBC News.
- Warning as Dusty the dolphin injures swimmers off Irish coast. (2013). BBC News.
- Dolphin Facts: Everything You Need To Know (2023). Dolphins Plus Bayside.
- Flipping Terrufying: Aggressive dolphin attacks are on the rise as 10-year-old is mauled on family holiday. Libbert, L. (2019). The Sun.