Fun Bowhead Whale Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Oct 28, 2022 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
The bowhead whale facts are mind-blowingly interesting to read about.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.2 Min

Bowhead whale, or Balaena Mysticetus, is one of the longest living mammals on earth. They are commonly found in the arctic and cold sub-arctic water. Commonly known as Greenland right whale in the North Atlantic, these bowhead whales are known for their longer lifespan and can live up to 200 years old. Their high volumes range more than 10,000 Hz, and how their repetitive moaning sounds have the ability to create a song. With the size of around 53 feet to 59 feet which may also increase to 60 to 80 feet, they are considered the fifth largest mammals on the earth.

They have been named bowhead whales based on their gigantic triangular skull which looks like a bowhead. Their huge bowhead skull is used by the whales to easily break through the thick sea ice surfaces which makes the conditions favorable for these whales to live under icy waters. The bowhead whales do not have any teeth but their mouth consists of around 300 baleen plates which help them filter their food easily through loads of water.  

If you loved reading the bowhead whales, you would surely want to read more about marine life. In that case, do not miss to check out false killer whale and porpoise.

Bowhead Whale Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a bowhead whale?

Bowhead whales are animals belonging to the Balaena or cetacean whales category.

What class of animal does a bowhead whale belong to?

Bowhead whales belong to the Mammalia class of the Balaenidae family.

How many bowhead whales are there in the world?

Bowhead whales are said to exist for a longer span. Although due to commercial whalers and other issues, in the current times, there are said to be around 10,000-12,000 of these whales living in the world.

Where does a bowhead whale live?

The cold arctic ocean and subarctic waters and the cold sea areas are popularly known for their bowhead whale population. They are usually known for living in the shallow waters that form around the pack ice.

What is a bowhead whale's habitat?

People earlier thought the bowhead whales belong to the North Atlantic population. The Arctic bowheads' habitat was later found to be majorly distributed in the following areas of Bering-Chukchi Sea, North of Europe, between Canada and Greenland, Beaufort Seas, Hudson Bay, Baffin Bay, North Carolina, Italy, Sea of Okhotsk stock and Svalbard-Barents Sea stock.

Who do bowhead whales live with?

Unlike the toothed whales, the arctic bowhead whale's species are considered to be solitary. Though the toothed whales travel in large groups to hunt their prey, the bowhead whales prefer doing it alone. A few of them are seen traveling in their small groups of a maximum of six to 14 sea ice bowhead whales. These groups of whales are known as pods.

How long does a bowhead whale live?

Bowhead whale life expectancy is known to exceed a minimum of 100 years at least. Based on the specimens found by researchers, they derived the whale to be around 130 years old. Bowheads are thus known as one of the longest living mammals on Earth with one of the oldest bowhead whale species being around 200 to 275 years old.

How do they reproduce?

Even though bowhead whales may reproduce throughout the year, the mating season usually takes place from March to August. The female bowhead whale is viviparous in nature, meaning a mammal that gives live birth. The female whales take about 13-14 months for the gestation process to complete before giving birth to one young baby whale. The young bowheads' calf might weigh around 1000 kg and are 400 cm-450 cm in length. They are born with thick blubber so that it is favorable for them to survive in the sea ice or extremely cold ocean water. These young calves can swim within 30 minutes of being born.

What is their conservation status?

The commonly known right whale or bowhead whale population across the globe is considered to be fairly good with a 10000 - 12000 number, which is why CITES have mentioned it to be of least concern. There are a few of the bowheads population which have been listed in the IUCN red list. This bowhead whale endangered locations comprise the population from Sea of Okhotsk stock, Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Sea, Svalbard, as well as the Baffin and Hudson Bay.

Bowhead Whale Fun Facts

What do bowhead whales look like?

Whale bowhead has a huge body and has an equally big tail.

With a black/dark gray body and white chin, the bowheads look humongous. Because of their huge triangular skull and big upper jaw, they have their eyes placed on the lower ends of both sides of their face. These are the major factors that make the bowhead whale skeleton be amongst the few ocean animals with the biggest anatomy. Bowhead whales don't have a dorsal fin, unlike the other whales who all have them although they have two blow-holes placed aside each other. Bowhead whale baleen is also considered to be the longest baleen amongst all the baleen whales, making it easier for them to prey.

How cute are they?

Bowhead whales or the commonly known right whale have a huge triangular skull due to the big upper jaw and are comparatively big in size which might scare people, but their dark and white shade makes them stand out and can be considered almost cute to the human eye.

How do they communicate?

Here's a fun fact: Bowhead whale sounds are of very high frequency and are usually taken as a moan. But when in repetitive style, these moans are called the arctic bowhead whale songs which is a way for them to communicate and locate the food.

How big is a bowhead whale?

The bowhead whale size varies between 53 feet to 59 feet where the largest of their species was around 70 feet to 80 feet long. They are considered to be the fifth largest mammal on the earth and are as big as the three species of the right whales combined.

How fast can a bowhead whale swim?

Bowhead whales are spotted in sea ice and are usually not in a hurry. They are slow in their pace with an average speed of  1.2 to 1.3 miles per hour. When in need of any kind of danger they can swim up to 6.2 miles per hour but not faster than that.

How much does a bowhead whale weigh?

The bowhead whale weighs around 120,000-160,000 pounds, which is also because of its thick blubber.

What are their male and female names of the species?

These arctic or ice bowhead whales' species do not have any separate names based on the different genders.

What would you call a baby bowhead whale?

Just like other species of whales, the arctic bowhead whales' babies are called calves. Usually, the female bowheads give birth to a calf after 13-14 months of gestation period.

What do they eat?

Bowhead whales are the groups of marine mammals that feed on invertebrate marine life. Their major source of food is krill as well as planktons, pteropods, and copepods too.

Are they hunted by humans?

The research suggests there were around 50,000 bowheads before commercial whaling was permitted. Even though the International Whaling Commission has restricted the practice of commercial whaling, many bowhead whales have been hunted for their thick blubber and oil as well as their meat.

Would they make a good pet?

Being solitary in their nature, bowheads can get a little boisterous while interacting with social groups. They breach out of the water at a great height at times completely getting out of the water which lowers their probability of becoming a good pet.

Did you know...

Bowhead whales are considered to be the oldest living whales amongst all the other marine animals. Though they have around 300 baleen plates, bowhead whale teeth are supposed to lack from their mouth. As the bowhead whale diet mostly includes only krills and planktons, the teeth are absent and do not create any inconvenience for the bowheads either.

Bowheads are well adapted to the icy arctic waters and are majorly found in these biomes. Although climate change is one of the reasons for their endangered status, killer whales find it easy to travel to the arctic regions because of the comparatively favorable temperatures due to climate change. They are predators who may be responsible for lowering the bowhead whale's lifespan.

How long do bowhead whales sleep?

Even though bowheads are the longest living mammals; they just spend 7% of their day sleeping. Their sleep pattern occurs in small bursts of around 10 to 15 minutes.

How is the bowhead whale helpful for the environment?

As bowhead whales belong to the topmost pyramid of the marine food chain, they help in providing a broad insight into the Arctic ecosystem conditions. Bowhead whale's long lifespan and their awareness of the fluctuations help researchers and biologists keep a track of the changes that occur in the Arctic over longer durations. Hence, they are helpful for humans in understanding the marine environment better.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including the amazon river dolphin, or the leopard seal.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our bowhead whale coloring pages.

Bowhead Whale Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Krill, planktons, pteropods, copepods

What Type of Animal were they?

Herbivore

Average Litter Size?

1

How Much Did They Weigh?

120,000 lb -160,000 lb (54431 - 72574 kg)

What habitat Do they Live In?

arctic waters and other cold seas

Where Do They Live?

bering, chukchi, and beaufort seas, hudson bay, baffin bay, sea of okhotsk stock, svalbard-barents sea stock.

How Long Were They?

600 -720 in (1524 -1828 cm)

How Tall Were They?

N/A

Class

Mammal

Genus

Balaena

Family

Balaenidae

Scientific Name

Balaena Mysticetus

What Do They Look Like?

Dark black-gray and white

Skin Type

Blubber

What Are Their Main Threats?

n/a

What is their Conservation Status?

Least Concern
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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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