Do Sharks Like To Be Pet?

Do Sharks Like to be Pet?

Sharks do not instinctively like to be pet or even approached; they will only occasionally do so in situations where they’ve built a trusting connection with you.

Although the risk of being killed by a shark in one’s lifetime is “only” 1 in 3,748,067 (much less than the chance of being struck and killed by lightning), that shouldn’t be enough to convince you to go out and approach a shark, not to mention pet it.

Although several people have had to interact with sharks, it was only possible after having already built up a sense of trust and when it was under constant supervision.

I think it goes to say that there are many types of sharks, and as such, their personalities can vary significantly.

What you can expect from your encounter with a shark can vary based on the species of shark you see; thus, we’ll take a look at some examples in this article today and also go over why it’s probably not a great idea for you to interact (i.e. touch or pet) with a shark on a whim.

Can a Shark be Friendly?

Sharks can certainly be friendly, however, it depends on various factors such as shark species and whether they have already built a trusting connection with you.

There have even been instances where a shark has willingly approached a person, however, that was after years of trust-building between the two.

After over 10 years of removing hooks from sharks, diver Jim Abernethy was able to rub the nose of a tiger shark without any sort of retaliation. However, you must keep in mind that this relationship was built in over 10 years, not overnight, and that there were other professionals like Jim nearby.

Now, you may be wondering if it’s because tiger sharks are more docile that Jim was able to touch them, so let’s take a closer look to see if that’s the case.

How Friendly Are Tiger Sharks?

Tiger sharks are generally friendly animals when unprovoked (like most animals), but that shouldn’t give you any reason to try and interact with one.

Tiger sharks are the second most likely species to be involved in shark attacks at 13%, behind only the great white (fig. 1).

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Figure 1: Since recording began in 1580, there have been 102 non-fatal unprovoked shark attacks and 36 fatal unprovoked shark attacks, totaling 138 overall attacks involving tiger sharks.

Despite that number though, it’s quite surprising at the end of the day that, that number isn’t higher as tiger sharks both have a relatively wide prey preference and inhabit many of the places humans tend to visit.

Another reason why tiger sharks seem like relatively friendly animals is that they make reasonably good oceanographers.

Because of their wide habitats (tropical, subtropical, coastal, and offshore), their tendency to move both laterally and vertically in the water, and their calm response to capture and tagging, tiger sharks are frequently tagged and used to survey and map out the characteristics of the ocean surface.

How Friendly Are Whale Sharks?

Unlike tiger sharks, whale sharks are very friendly and are almost completely harmless to humans, as there hasn’t been a single reported case of a whale shark attack on humans.

Because of this, many humans tend to swim next to them, which can cause much more harm to them.

Hence, it’s probably not surprising to learn that we know quite a bit about whale sharks due to how easily we can get close to them.

This can be either good or bad since knowing more about these animals allows us to ramp up our conservation efforts to save them but comes at the cost of potentially disrupting their natural behavioral patterns and causing them stress.

How Friendly Are Great White Sharks?

Great white sharks are certainly not the friendliest sharks.

Not surprisingly, they account for the largest majority of shark attacks on humans (fig. 2).

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Figure 2: Since recording began in 1580, there have been 297 non-fatal unprovoked shark attacks and 57 fatal unprovoked shark attacks, totaling 354 overall attacks involving great white sharks.

Although great white sharks have often been displayed as vicious, unrelenting predators, research has shown that they are not as aggressive towards us as they are towards their natural prey (i.e. large schools of fish, seals).

The exploratory bite hypothesis serves as a potential reason as to why sharks attack humans.

The exploratory bite hypothesis emphasizes that great white sharks are most likely to bite humans because of their curiosity and tendency to find out more about us.

Hence, the bites they take when they attack us are almost always much lighter than those they take on seals or sea lions.

Despite this explanation, a recent research study showed that there was not a single noticeable interaction between great white sharks and humans throughout their entire observation period.

Of course, you could say that at the end of the day, this was only a small sample, so it doesn’t accurately represent the population as a whole, but keep in mind that this study was done over a period of 2 years where they tracked a total of 108 great white sharks.

Overall though, it’s important to remember that great white sharks still account for the largest number of shark attacks.

Therefore, it’s important to avoid going to shark-infested waters in the early day or evening hours when they’re most active and if you do happen to see a great white, always keep your distance.

How Friendly Are Lemon Sharks?

Lemon sharks are a relatively friendly shark species, with only 10 recorded shark attacks involving them since 1580 (fig. 3).

Consider this with the fact that they are usually seen in subtropical shallow waters near humans. Lemon sharks are usually pictured as docile shark species.

However, lemon sharks are still apex predators at the top of the food chain, so it’s important to always be cautious around them and make sure never to spook them.

They are a particularly sociable species who like to gather in large groups and can become aggressive to humans and each other when agitated.

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Figure 3: Since recording began in 1580, there have been 10 non-fatal unprovoked shark attacks and 0 fatal unprovoked shark attacks, totaling 10 overall attacks involving lemon sharks.

What Are the Friendliest Sharks?

Based on prior data on shark attacks, the following shark species are seen as the least dangerous and arguably friendliest of them all.

  • Whale sharks: These are filter feeders; thus, they only eat microorganisms. They have never attacked a human and are very tolerant of people;
  • Nurse shark: Ocean bottom dwellers that wait for prey. Only 5 non-fatal attacks have been reported;
  • Basking shark: Another filter feeder. Though large and similar looking to great whites, they have never attacked a human

Can You Touch A Shark?

Though some sharks are docile, you should not touch them without careful preparation and supervision.

Sharks are wild apex predators and thus should not be disturbed for both you and their safety.

Even whale sharks, who have never harmed a human, can accidentally injure you if you’re near them just by bumping you with their body.


Overall, you can see that sharks differ quite drastically in behavior, but none are truly aggressive towards humans.

Nevertheless, you should never attempt to intentionally approach, interact, or touch them, regardless of the species.

Observing from a distance away is always the best way of viewing wild animals. Stay safe out there!