Are Penguins Dangerous?

Penguins appear endearing creatures because of their small stature and distinct gait.

However, they are still wild animals that pose a risk of attacks and infections.

Penguins rarely perceive humans as a threat. 

Which means

Though penguins are potentially dangerous, they normally don’t attack humans.

Though penguins are potentially dangerous, they normally don’t attack humans.

Perhaps, this statement gave you some hopes for your ultimate fantasy of hugging a real-life penguin buddy and sliding through the icy mountains. 

Are Penguins Aggressive To Humans?

They normally aren’t, but they can be if they ever feel threatened.

You see, penguins live in the extreme cold regions within the southern hemisphere.

Since only a few animal and plant species can survive such an environment, penguins typically lack land predators in their native habitat. 

In fact, the only land-based penguin predators are raptors like skuas and giant petrels.

However, even these birds cannot survive the frigid cold of Antarctica. 

Furthermore, these raptors are not strong enough to predate fully grown penguins. 

Penguins don’t perceive land animals including humans as a threat.

And so, if anything penguins are intrigued by human presence.

Which is why penguins are not generally aggressive towards humans, at least on their first encounter.

“So, penguins are not aggressive because they don’t understand the concept of predators?”

Quite the contrary.

You see, penguins are deep-sea divers that forage through the ocean. 

In fact, a penguin may spend up to 70% of its lifespan below water.

And so, they typically encounter only aquatic predators like leopard seals, sea lions, whales, and rarely sharks.  

Penguins only developed instinctual fear of ocean dwellers and not the land inhabitants.

That said, humans have been predating penguins for centuries.  

For instance, sea travelers used to slaughter and salt several penguins for an infinite supply of penguin meat throughout their journey.

Probably, no captured penguin survived to tell the tale to its peers and develop a human-phobia.

Or worse, maybe humans ate entire penguin colonies of the time to evolve human fear.

Anyways, certain penguin species are naturally aggressive, even towards their own kind.

Their aggression towards humans is no surprise. 

These species include:

  1. Gentoo Penguins
  2. Adelies Penguins
  3. King Penguins
  4. Emperor Penguins
  5. Chinstrap Penguins

It is noteworthy that aggression across Penguin Species has been increasing within decades.

Have a read of my article – Are penguins friendly to humans?

Now, you may be curious:

Why Are Penguins Becoming Aggressive?

Ornithologists describe the following reasons:

1. Environmental Changes

With global warming, places that were once frigid cold are now moderately temperate.

This has allowed several animals including predators like raptors to migrate and eat penguins.

Which means penguins have started to become cautious on land.

2. Artificial Introduction Of Species

Human travel expeditions have led to an artificial introduction of several non-native species.

Penguins are facing land predators and diseases, without any natural defense or immunity. 

For instance, foxes, weasels, and cats have been reported to eat smaller penguin species like blue penguins. 

Such Exposed Penguin colonies are showing hostility even towards their curious onlookers.

Penguins are gradually becoming aggressive to intruders.

Still, imagining an angry bird or in this case, a penguin, seems rather adorable.

Besides, if you have no intention to hurt a penguin, then the bird should become familiar with you.

So, you may be wondering..

Are Penguins Safe To Touch?

That depends on the species of that penguin as well as where it was raised. 

You see, penguins and humans don’t share natural habitats.

Touching a wild penguin may result in the transmission of unknown diseases.

Humans generally travel long distances to reach penguins further increasing the risk of exotic infections.

Humans, with their science and technology, are certainly better equipped to deal with any such diseases.

However, penguins are not even familiar with penicillin. 

And so, despite their immune system, penguins are unlikely to survive unnatural diseases.

Since penguins live in well-connected colonies.a dubious human touch is capable of ending an entire colony of Penguins.

It actually is illegal to touch wild penguins. 

In fact, even scientists studying penguins are allowed to touch a penguin only when absolutely necessary, and that too with extreme precautions.

With an ongoing pandemic, it seems only fair that we spare penguins the human troubles.

That said, penguins raised in human captivity are familiar with the human touch and are unlikely to return to their colonies.

Furthermore, they have already been tested for potential hazards and diseases. 

Touching a penguin in man-made facilities is generally considered safe.

However, even these facilities allow limited contact with penguins.

As a rule of thumb, one can only touch a penguin with two fingers, that too if the penguin first approaches that humans.

Can I Hug a Penguin?

Though you can hug a penguin that doesn’t mean you should.

Obviously, wild penguins are out of the question.

Now, captive adult penguins are more aggressive than their wild counterparts. 

It may be that such penguins experience some imbalance in regular life, or maybe they prefer the vastness of the ocean over relatively small ponds.

Baby penguins, that are raised in captivity, don’t actively resist human touch.

So, one can hug such a penguin.

How Does It Feel to Hug a Penguin? 

Well, penguins are built solid and their muscles are densely packed. 

While they have short feathers, penguins frequently preen and oil themselves.

This allows a penguin to retain air bubbles in its feathers.

Thereby, reducing water drag, keeping penguins warm as well as allowing the feathers to not get extremely soaked with water.


Hugging a penguin feels like hugging an oily and slippery but fluffed bag, packed with sand.

Why I Shouldn’t Hug a Penguin?

Because finding a penguin attractive doesn’t justify a hug that endangers both of you.

Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t hug a penguin:

1. Hugs Can Be Scary For Penguins

In the wild, getting hugged by an unfamiliar animal usually represents death. 

It’s because apart from humans, most animals don’t find other species cute or endearing instead weak and delicious. 

Only predators give a literal breath-taking hug to their prey.

Therefore, getting a cuddly hug can significantly scare a penguin. 

To understand how this feels, imagine a grizzly bear running after you or trying to hold you. Do you think the bear wants to give you a mama bear hug or want to eat a crushed human? 

So why would a penguin enjoy a human hug?

2. Hygienic Issues

Penguins’ anatomy allows them the ability to shoot their droppings a few feet away, in a projectile motion.

This adaptation helps penguins stay clean in the wild. 

However, a domesticated penguin has limited space which means, it can significantly expose him to infections this way.


Penguin skin may contain diseases or bacteria by getting exposed to its own feces.

That said, captive penguins are not particularly potty-trained.

Although most penguin facilities allow hugging a penguin from the side

There is no guarantee that a penguin will not throw its projectile droppings on you, especially when you scare him by hugging from the side

3. Penguins Have a Distinct Odor

Penguins frequently preen and add oil to their feathers.

Also, they eat raw fish and other marine animals.

They even regurgitate their food to feed their young.

Additionally, penguins can stand on their own dropping without realizing it.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that:

Penguins have an unpleasant fishy musk to them.

4. Penguins Can Cause Physical Harm

Now, a moderate penguin is more than 20kgs in weight and can grow as tall as 3 feet.

While penguins cannot fly, they can swim in the water so, their muscles are capable of enormous strength.

Related article you will deffo find interesting! – Can penguins fly?

Furthermore, their wings are fused to avoid snapping underwater pressure.

A wing slap from a large penguin can cause a bone fracture or muscle wound. 

Also, penguins have large bills. 

If you really want to hug a penguin, your best option is to find a plush penguin.

It will not only be comfy and warm but also far cheaper and less dangerous.

However, you may have seen humans feeding penguins fish by hand.

So now you may thinking..

Do Penguins Bite Humans?

The adult ones do.

You see, penguins have large bills made of hard-keratinous material.

These bills are designed to allow penguins to hunt with precision even within the water. 

Penguin beaks are strong enough to poke holes through the human eye.

Now, penguin caretakers that work in human-made penguin facilities are often required to hold, cleanse, or feed penguins.

Hand-feeding a penguin allows penguin-caretakers to track the number of fish eaten by a single penguin.

Did you knoweven the most familiar penguin caretakers report penguin bites.

Baby penguins don’t generally bite.

In fact, they are generally so calm and fun-loving that even a human can hold them to his/her cheek. 

However, even they pose an infection risk.

Which is why one should avoid touching them unnecessarily.

While baby wild penguins are also cuddly and funloving, they travel in groups to protect each other.

Some such penguins have shown aggressive traits.

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