Southern Right Whale Facts

Right whales were first classified in the genus Balaena in 1758. Throughout the 1800 s and 19000 authorities repeatedly re-categorized the three populations of the right whales.


Can grow to an impressive 16 meters 


A staggering 60 tons


Up to 12 months long


A remarkable 50 to 100 years long

Southern Right Whale Facts


The southern right whale belongs to the group Cetacea which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. This whale is one of three species within the right family. The other two is known as the north Atlantic right whale and the north pacific right whale. Southern right whales are known to swim between the southern hemisphere and near Antarctica. All three right whale species are considered endangered.


A mature southern right whale can grow up to 16 meters and weigh as much as 60 tons. This equals the weight of 10 combined African elephants. Female southern rights are usually bigger than males and reach a length of about 17 meters. Their heads are quite large and makes up roughly ¼ of the whale’s whole body. The largest part of their bodies is around the center area and tapers down towards the flukes. They use their pectoral fins to steer them through the waters while swimming. The southern right whale lacks a dorsal fin. They have a dark grey – black skin tone with white patches on its belly and throat. The white markings on the southern right’s head are patches of rough calcified skin. The whiteness is due to large colonies of white lice that lives on them. Southern rights lack teeth, but consist of a pair baleen plates with bristles attached to them. The bristles allow the whale to filter its prey. Their mouths are slightly arched and bow-shaped.

Food Source

Southern right whales feed on copepods, krill, mys ids and plankton. They are known as skimmers and are found near the surface of the water when hunting for food. They will dive into deep waters looking for nutrient rich food in high latitude areas, this only happens occasionally. Southern rights usually swim in the southern hemisphere. They travel Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Zealand, Peru, South Africa and Uruguay. Southern rights are known to be very social with other whales and dolphins. They approach boats and vessels in order to observe them and the people on the boat. When they are around human, they limit their activity in the water, for they realize their large size and do not want to hurt or injure them. They are known to swim into surf zones, but are not known to strand. If you are lucky enough you can watch calves and their mothers swim and do tricks together.

Mating & Gestation

In mating season, a female southern right might have as many as seven partners. Male southern rights do not fight with each other to show jealousy. The average gestation period is approximately 12 months. Females only produces every 3 – 4 years. Nursing lasts up to 6 months after birth. Sexual maturity is reached at age 9 to 11 years old for females, at this stage they are ready mate and reproduce. The lifespan for southern rights is 50 to 100 years. They are known to be the longest living species of cetacea. Fears they faces in the waters of the southern hemisphere is being hit by a boat that passes, health hazards from chemical pollution that affects their food supply, aquatic construction, aquatic mining, ocean based oil refineries having a negative impact on their ecosystem and agricultural changes to global warming. Despite their large size, these animals get attach by killer whales and large sharks from time to time.

Scientific Name

Southern right’s scientific name is Eubalaena austalis. The southern right male whales are known to have the biggest testicles weighing 500 kg each. Due to their thick layer of fat, they never cross the equator and head into the northern hemisphere, for their bodies is unable to handle the heat. Southern right whales are a protected species. They became a protected species in 1935 from commercial whaling. The population is slowly increasing by 7% per year. They are best known in the waters of South Africa, specifically the Cape where they breed in inshore waters. Bulls grow up to 17 meters long and weigh about 50 tons. Their mating and calving season starts from July to August every year.

Why the Term Right Whales

Whalers claim the term “right whale” because this specific whale was considered slow and the “right” one to hunt back in the days. They were slow swimmers, floated when dead and provided great amounts of valuable products such as oil. The southern right is one of three species classified as right whales. They were distinguished from others because of their broad back without a dorsal fin, wide pectoral fins and their long mouths that begins from right above the eye. Southern right whales cruise the sea at about 3 km/hour. They can blow water up to 5 meters in the air and their blowing pattern is v-shaped.

Southern right whale

Incredible Southern Right Whale Facts

  • Lacks a Dorsal Fin
  • Lack the presence of Teeth
  • Will be found in the Southern Hemisphere
  • Migrate towards the equator for mating
  • May social with other whales and dolphins
  • Females are polygamous and may have upto 7 partners
  • Sexual maturity of the young takes between 9-11 years

Learn About the Humpback Whale

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