Watch a Black Lab Narrowly Outswim Two Killer Whales in New Zealand

Written by Angie Menjivar
Updated: August 31, 2023
© Tom Meaker/
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Key Points:

  • This startling video shows a black Labrador encountering two killer whales after chasing a stick thrown into the ocean.
  • Black Labradors are descended from St. Johns Water Dogs, originally bred to assist fishermen in Newfoundland, Canada.
  • Killer whales, also known as orcas, will venture near the shore in search of food such as stingrays.

Labradors are a popular breed because they make easy-going and affectionate life companions for humans. They’re great with families and they love being in the water. In fact, their chubby tails act as rudders in the water, helping them swim quickly.

Their coats are waterproof and even when the water is cold, they remain happy-go-lucky! They have boundless energy, which makes them incredibly versatile as hunting and working dogs. They can run and swim for hours on end and are often utilized in settings that require a commitment to hard work like search and rescue missions.

Types of water dogs
Labradors are not only capable of swimming for hours, but also have waterproof coats.


This video starts with a view of Mathesons Bay, Leigh in New Zealand. There are some rocks peeking out of the water and a diver is right in the center of the screen, looking forward, as a large black orca fin approaches him.

It gets a bit too close for comfort and he shimmies his way up the rocks, crawling backward as he keeps his gaze on the giant orca in front of him. As the video continues, you spot a second fin and realize there are two orcas in the water, swimming extremely close to shore.

Healthy orcas gravitate toward oxygenated water, which they find close to shore. The water tends to be clearer, and they don’t have to deal with the pollution they normally encounter in deeper waters.

Where Do Orcas Live?

The largest members of the dolphin family, orcas prefer to live far out at sea where the water is deeper. Although they generally live all over the globe, these predators prefer colder water.

It is no surprise, however, that they showed up at Leigh since they do approach coastlines and can be found at every coast in New Zealand, and may even make an appearance at estuaries and harbors.

Killer whale breaching
Orcas can be found on every coast in New Zealand.

©Tory Kallman/

The camera pans over to the diver again, and you can see he has emerged fully out of the water and is resting on the rocks to keep away from the two killer whales. Then, the video cuts to a shot of the black lab enjoying the water.

The pup is so close to the shore that you can see the small waves as they roll in just behind him. He’s looking around, swimming toward shore when one of the orca’s fins emerges out of the water, much too close to the lab.

The lab has its focus on shore and continues forward as the orca comes up out of the water just behind him. He notices that he’s not alone and has a normal reaction to hurry up and keep swimming. It gets to the point where the water isn’t deep enough to keep swimming and he stands, turns around, and looks over at the orca.

The orca has managed to make its way to the shallow area of the bay and when it realizes it can’t go further, it makes a turn and swims off as the black lab stares in disbelief (along with other onlookers!).

Is This Normal Behavior?

black lab swims
Labradors’ ancestors were once bred to assist fishermen and are strong swimmers.

©Tom Meaker/

While Labradors are born with traits that can make them excellent swimmers, it isn’t a given that they’ll be comfortable in the water. Labradors should be introduced to the water and given opportunities to exercise their natural skills from a young age. That being said, ancestors to Labrador retrievers, namely St. John’s Water Dogs, were bred specifically as working dogs to aid Newfoundland fishermen.

Once a black lab is comfortable with the water, it will be natural for it to enjoy opportunities to swim, whether in a lake, river, swimming pool, or even the ocean. A black Labrador swimming in the ocean is not unusual at all. This particular black lab makes its way as quickly as possible to the shore once it notices the large whale.

Given the large proportion of the whale in size, it’s not surprising that the dog instinctually makes a dash in the opposite direction. While dogs can be good swimmers, they are at a distinct disadvantage in water over their heads.

What about the orca? Do “killer whales” eat dogs? There’s actually no record of an orca killing or eating a human or a dog. Orcas typically stick to the diet they are familiar with, which can include stingrays, and have been known to venture near the shore in search of them.

It’s obvious the orca was probably very curious about the swimming dog and may have been scoping it out as a potential meal. We’re very happy that this particular dog was able to make it to shore safely.

Don’t Miss the Entire Video — Watch Below

What Other Animals Live Around New Zealand’s Coasts?

Animals That Use Echolocation
Dolphins are just one example of marine wildlife that approach New Zealand’s coasts.


New Zealand is richly blessed with an abundance of marine wildlife including a variety of species that are all protected by law.

An adventurous labrador out for a swim might also spot:

The common dolphin (Delphinus delphis): Clever and gregarious, these cetaceans are known to make an appearance in summer and may be spotted in small groups or pods whose members may be as many as a thousand. Other New Zealand dolphins canine and human fans are likely to encounter include:

  • The dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus)
  • The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus/Tursiops aduncus).

New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri): A case of deceiving appearances, these gregarious seals love regions with large rocks for sunning themselves, and shallow pools for a refreshing dip. Males also wage combat against each other with size playing a key role in deciding the victor. Other seals include:

Other animals that can be found in New Zealand waters include:

  • The seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis)
  • The grey mullet (Mugil cephalus)
  • Wrasse (Notolabrus celidotus).

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The Featured Image

black lab swims
© Tom Meaker/

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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a quirky cat mom with a love for books, thunderstorms, and comfy couches where she cozies up with her laptop to write her heart out. Her writing style combines engaging storytelling, vivid imagery, emotional resonance, and educational depth to create a compelling and informative reading experience for readers like you! Her passion and humor stamp her work with a voice all her own and her sense of wonder creates a fantastical narrative that allows you to explore the fascinating world of wildlife through new eyes.

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