Risso’s Dolphin

Grampus griseus

What do they look like?

These dolphins have an unusual head shape in comparison to other dolphins. Their heads are blunt and have no beak—making them reminiscent of the Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). However, they are significantly larger with much taller, sickle-shaped dorsal fins. Colouration can be very different between individuals and can change with age, but they are usually dark-medium grey with a white patch on their bellies and many scratches and scars all over. As they get older, they become paler and whiter. They also acquire more scarring from prey such as squid or from fights with other Risso’s dolphins.

Where can I see them in Scotland?

Risso’s dolphins are found throughout UK seas but are most common off the north and west coasts. These dolphins are frequently spotted around Scotland, particularly off the west coast and Outer Hebrides, but prefer deep waters. They are usually quite sociable, often seen in groups of 10-30 animals.

Fun Fact
The Risso’s dolphin's favourite food, squid, generally dwell very deep underwater. To hunt them, these dolphins can dive to depths of 400-500 metres for as long as 30 minutes at a time.

20-35 years
Average Lifespan
3.8-4 metres
Least Concern
IUCN conservation status

Find out more about cetaceans
Not many people know that Scotland has some of the best whale and dolphin watching opportunities in Europe. Discover more about which species you can spot, how scientists are monitoring their numbers, fun facts, crafts and more inside our cetaceans Dive-in pack.

A group of 4 volunteers gaze out to sea through their binoculars on a bright day in North Berwick with scattered clouds.
© Jess Thompson

We’re excited to be supporting a Whale and Dolphin Conservation Shorewatch site here in North Berwick! WDC Shorewatch is a network of volunteers trained to monitor whales and dolphins at sites around the Scottish coastline, raising awareness and capturing vital data to protect these amazing species.

The Seabird Centre Catamaran tour boat as it cruises around a Bass Rock that is bright white with breeding gannets.
© Rob McDougall

Wildlife Boat Trips
Whales and dolphins are regular visitors to the Firth of Forth and can sometimes be spotted from our guided wildlife boat trips and from the shore.

Want to find out more about cetaceans in Scotland?

Visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation website or the Sea Watch Foundation website for more information.

A Risso's dolphin slides its head and dorsal fin out of a slightly rippled sea, displaying its blunt face, sickle-shaped dorsal fin and many white scars criss-crossing a dark grey body, mainly around the head.
(c) Emma Steel