Sperm Whale vs Orca: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: September 25, 2023
© wildestanimal/Shutterstock.com
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Although we tend to think of whales as gentle sea creatures too large for others to attack, neither of those ideas holds. In the ocean, sperm whales are the largest toothed predator, capable of attacking and eating other marine animals easily. However, the orca, also known as the killer whale, is a dolphin and a competitor with the sperm whale for food. What happens if a sperm whale vs orca fight broke out over a choice morsel in the ocean?  That’s what we’re going to show you today!

Comparing a Sperm Whale and an Orca

The orca is faster than the sperm whale.
Sperm WhaleOrca
SizeWeight: 45 tons
Length: 49-59ft
Weight: 6.6 tons
Length: 23ft-32ft
Speed and Movement Type– 4-23 mph– 30 mph
Defenses– Massive size
– Some stay in pods with other whales to ward off prey
Produces a powerful click for echolocation, and that can also ward off predators that can’t stand 200+ dB
– Very large animal makes it hard to attack
– Lives and hunts in pods, making it harder to prey upon
– The animal is fast and has good endurance
Offensive Capabilities– 36-60 cone-shaped teeth with a slight curve towards the back of its mouth
Has teeth up to 8 inches long and 2lbs in weight
– May use their tail offensively
– It’s possible they use their clicks offensively to disorient prey
– Massive biting power with a 19,000 PSI bite
40-56 interlocking teeth measuring between 2-4in
– Teeth are used for tearing – May thrash and harm others with their tails  
Predatory Behavior– Opportunistic predator    – Work in packs to hunt prey as opportunistic predators
– Can swim as much as 100 miles in a day to find food

What Are the Key Differences Between a Sperm Whale and an Orca?

Apex predator: Killer whales
Orcas use echolocation to hunt in the ocean, and they have no animal predators.

©slowmotiongli/Shutterstock.com

The greatest differences between a sperm whale and an orca are their size and body shape. Sperm whales are dark gray whales with rounded heads and long bodies featuring several humps, weighing up to 45 tons and growing 59 ft long, and an orca is a large black and white member of the dolphin family with a very large dorsal fin that weighs up to 6.6 tons and grows about 32ft long.

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These animals are both very large, but the sperm whale is much bigger. Of course, size isn’t everything in a fight in the animal kingdom. We have to consider other factors when deciding which animal is most likely to win a fight against the other.

What Are the Key Factors in a Fight Between a Sperm Whale and an Orca?

Fastest Sea Animal: Killer Whale
The Orca is the largest of the dolphins and is very Sperm Whale vs Orca: Who Would Win in a Fight?

©Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock.com

We can examine different elements of sperm whales and orcas all day long, but not all that information is pertinent to this fight. Instead, we’re going to focus on five important factors such as size and speed that make a difference in how these animals would fight one another.

Take a closer look at the key factors in the sperm whale vs orca fight!

Sperm Whale vs Orca: Size

Sperm whales are much larger than orcas. The average sperm whale can measure anywhere between 49 and 59 feet long and weighs nearly 45 tons, and the largest sperm whale was 57 tons and was over 70 feet long!

Orcas are small in comparison, weighing about 6.6 tons and measuring 23 ft-32 ft in length.

Sperm whales have a massive size advantage.

Sperm Whale vs Orca: Speed and Movement

Orcas are faster than sperm whales, and they have better endurance to boot. An orca can move up to 30 mph in the water, maintaining a substantial portion of that speed for a while. Sperm whales move at about 4 mph on average, but they can burst forth at about 23 mph.

Orcas have a speed advantage over sperm whales.

Sperm Whale vs Orca: Defenses

Few creatures in the world have physical defenses like the sperm whale. Female and young sperm whales tend to live in groups making it hard to approach and attack them. Other than that, they’re simply too big for most creatures to try to kill. They can produce deafening clicking noises that measure over 200 decibels, more than enough to frighten off curious predators.

Orcas also count on their size and pods to stay safe. However, their speed and endurance allow them to move away from potential danger, too.

The sperm whale has superior defenses compared to an orca.

Sperm Whale vs Orca: Offensive Capabilities

At first glance, it may seem that the sperm whale is loaded for bear when it comes to offensive powers. It has up to 60 teeth that measure 8 inches long and weighs 2 lbs. Also, sperm whales have massive tails that can kill other sea animals with a single hit. They also have famous clicks that can disorient or stun smaller prey.

Yet, they have some weaknesses in that they only have teeth on the bottom jaw most of the time and that they are so huge that landing a tail thwack might be difficult against a small, moving target.

The orca is far more agile and is also prepared to deal damage to enemies. It has a massive biting power of 19,000 PSI, and over 40 teeth that measure up to 4 inches long and help it tear prey apart. It can also use its tail to corral prey.

Sperms whales have more offensive potential, but orcas use their offensive weapons more effectively.

Sperm Whale vs Orca: Predatory Behavior

Orcas are cursorial predators that take their time herding and eating their prey. They can wear down prey with their speed and endurance and use their bodies to separate weaker animals from their pods.

Sperm whales are opportunistic predators that sometimes hunt together, but they often dive deep into the water to hunt their favorite prey, squid.

Orcas are better predators, but a lot of their potency stems from their membership in a pod.

Who Would Win in a Fight Between a Sperm Whale and an Orca?

Whale Teeth - Sperm Whale Open Mouth Showing Teeth
Sperm whales are too large and powerful for a lone orca to hunt.

©bekirevren/Shutterstock.com

A lone sperm whale would kill an orca in a one-on-one fight. Even when both creatures travel in pods, the orcas typically choose to separate the smaller whales from the group and kill them rather than face the terrible fury of a bull whale.

Against a bull sperm whale, an orca would have a nearly impossible task. The only pathway to victory for them would be to relentlessly bite and dodge the counterattacks from the sperm whale. Moreover, it would need to force the whale to the surface to prevent losing sight of it since the orca can’t stay submerged as long as the sperm whale.

The sperm whale would have a lot of trouble killing an orca, too. Their teeth and jaws aren’t great for biting and tearing animals to shreds. Tail strikes may be too ineffective or take a great number of hits to put the orca down for good.

Nevertheless, the sperm whale has a higher chance of scoring a killing blow than the orca. The fight would probably end with the orca fleeing once it realizes that it’s facing a predator it can’t hope to beat.

Could Another Animal Take Down a Sperm Whale?

Sperm whales are the largest toothed predator in the seas and that massive size led to victory over the biggest dolphin. But, how would they fare against the most vicious fish on the planet, whose name brings instant terror to humans and whose sight means certain death for any sea creature in its path? How would the colossal sperm whale do in a fight against the great white shark?

Great white sharks are among the deadliest creatures in the ocean and are the largest predatory shark. On average, a female can measure between 15 – 21 feet and a male 11 – 23 feet. They can weigh up to 5,000 pounds – a huge amount if their opponent wasn’t a whale. Sperm whales are one of the largest creatures in the ocean and are the largest toothed predator alive. They can grow up to 68 feet long and can weigh up to 45 tons. Will their superior size be the determining factor once again?

Although not known for sure, scientists believe that a great white shark has a bite force of 4,000 PSI, combined with rows of sharp teeth measuring three inches long. This would be the animal’s main defense and advantage against the giant sperm whale, but could it bring victory to the shark?

Sperm whales take down giant squid and megamouth sharks on a daily basis – so it stands to reason that a great white would be no match for the largest-toothed predator in the world. The great white would no doubt put up a ferocious fight – but the sperm whale’s arsenal of mind-numbing clicks, powerful tail swipes, and crushing bites combined with overwhelming size would turn the great white into a great snack for the mighty sperm whale.

Are Orcas Smarter Than Sperm Whales?

killer whale
Killer whales use twice as much of their cerebellum and are one of the smartest marine mammals

©Nick Grobler/Shutterstock.com

While sperm whales have a larger brain size, they only use about seven percent of their cerebellum, which is what is used for muscle control, in addition to playing a part in cognitive functions like memory and the processing of languages. Killer whales, on the other hand, use twice as much of their cerebellum and are one of the smartest marine mammals, with an intelligence quotient (IQ) of between 4.1 to 4.5, which is compared to that of a 16-year-old human.

Sperm whales are smart mammals with the largest brains on the planet, and just like orcas, they are not only capable of showing high levels of emotional and social intelligence, but they communicate exceptionally well. However, they are most likely not as smart as orcas, with their IQ being significantly lower at 0.58.


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About the Author

I've been a freelance writer since 2013, and I've written in a variety of niches such as managed service providers, animals, and retail distribution. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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