Can land animals Swim? As we know, animals don’t have fins or flippers, so swimming isn’t likely their natural mode of movement. They move around using four legs rather than two. So, why does fish swim? How do whales swim? And what can we learn from them?

Fish usually live near the surface of the water, where oxygen levels are higher. They breathe through gills, but some species also have lungs. Giant mammals like whales contain blubber, which stores energy as fat. When needed, the fat turns into fuel that allows them to dive deep and stay under the water for long periods of time.

Cow enjoying cold water with her dad

And here comes the cow. No blubbers, fins, or flippers, and yet can swim miles. A simply adorable mooer keeps on grazing as long as we see them, but inside, they have mastered the technique even pro swimmers do not have.

Table of Contents

Taxonomy of the cow in the animal kingdom


How good are swimmers cows?

Cows are excellent swimmers. These natural swimmers have little or no problem covering ponds or streams. There are incidents of cows covering large bodies of water. 

Swimming is an ideal forms of exercise as most cows’ lifestyle consists of slow and lazy grazing and residing in a shed.

Why do cows swim?

Cow herds going for a grazing land crossing 100 meters long lake

The amazing thing is why these large-bodied farmyard animals prefer swimming. After all, they are not built for crossing rivers or resisting colder water temperatures.

These strong swimmers often seek better grazing lands. Sometimes the pasture they prefer is across the river, and they prefer a swim route to get to their destination.

Cows are not always safe in their designated grazing areas due to predators or disturbing external agents. They often use shallow or calm waters as exit spots when threatened.

Ahh, and summer months! Waterbody is often the place of relaxation for the hairy natural bodies of cows. Sometimes cows enjoy it so much that they even try various postures in cold waters. Don’t be shocked if you see a backstroke cattle someday! However, these domesticated cattle will not prefer more than ankle-deep water in colder months.

A swim cow is so fond of cold water swimming that they even take their children despite their dislike of water, even in flooded rivers. Don’t worry; these adept swimmers always find a downstream exit.  

How does a cow swim?

Concept of buoyancy

Cows in water have a simple technique, swim as if they are walking in an upright position with their heads above water. Their heads are consistently above the water surface to have good vision and breathing.

The horn is an essential aspect of swimming as they keep the head tilted back for posture maintenance. The cows without horns will not have any problem, as the upper forehead acts as the center of balance for the head position.

The science behind heavier cattle, like cows floating, is the buoyancy of their massive body. It is the pressure acting on the opposite side of the body. The acting pressure on swimming cows results from gravitation force pull and water density push. As a result, the cow floats.

The density of salty water is much more compared to fresh water. It is undoubtedly easier for distance swimmers to get over water crossings in salty water.

The swimming direction and propel speed for cows are provided by paddling legs. As their body floats despite using their legs, these fascinating animals will not have any problem swimming for extended periods.

Incidents of cows being pro swimmers

There are many incidents that the cows have swam better than kayak pilots and pro swimmers.

  • Every year the fascinating herd of butterfly cows in Ireland swam across a massive lake to have a better grazing area. The cattle must cross a nearly 330-foot-long lake to get better grazing options.
  • When Hurricane Dorian impacted Cedar Island in 2019, three cows chose a downstream swim to be safe. The month was September when these cows decided to swim 5-miles in the Atlantic Ocean

Advice on swimming cattle

Cows on water

As cows love to swim, ranchers take them to rivers and let them enjoy the cold water. Sometimes, they even try out cattle racing with another rancher’s herd. Here is some advice before taking cows in water;

  • The fish hooks are probably the worst enemy of swimming cows as both fishing and cow rearing are conducted in farmers’ regions. Make sure the river or pond does not have fishing hooks and nets materials that can injure or probably sink the cattle.
  • Too shallow waters are not ideal for cows to swim as the sharp rocks on the bottom can hurt cows badly.
  • Tree branches on bodies of water will disturb cows’ swimming paths and sometimes might poke eyes. It is better to clear those things before letting your cattle jump in the water.
  • Ranchers Letting cattle in ponds should care about potential water contamination. Chlorinated water will be the better choice for such ponds.
  • Cattle races might be fun and be a better exercise option for cows swimming miles. But sometimes it might turn to exercise for cows suffering, so better not to do it over the limit.

Frequently asked questions

Are cows smart?

Cows are super smart as they can have a great bonding with other cows, hold grudges against badly treating cows/ranchers, and can remember things for a long time.

Why do cows scream at night?

Cows actually do not scream but moo at night if they have to communicate with friends, notify their presence, inform them about the food they find, or convey that they are hungry.

Do cows get jealous?

Compassion, grief, and jealousy are all traits of the cow. They get jealous when ranchers love other cows more.

How do you tell if a cow likes you?

If a cow likes you, it will lick, follow and cuddle you. Make sure you love it back by petting and scratching, especially on neck regions.

Tell them about the cow if you meet someone with a water phobia. Dairy cows are not only a source of milk but also a motivation for athletes.

1-2 miles or 2-3 miles, or even 5 miles, it is no problem for these pro swimmers. What other talent might these amazing animals have? Maybe an adorable beauty!

One thing we should never do is compare the swimming capabilities of these cuties with some ugly fishes that you would never want to see. Don’t believe us? Check out how these fishes look and why they are the ugliest.

(Last Updated on October 18, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Sadrish Dawadi is a Mountain Ecologist, an expert on the impact of climate change on humans, animals, and plant species. As an activist for animal welfare, he believes an animal's eyes can speak a great language of the planet's state and environmental condition.