Animals you didn’t know could swim

Discover the surprising animals familiar with the front crawl

Some animals – like dolphins, ducks and dogs – are known for their aquatic abilities, but there are also some unlikely swimmers in the animal kingdom:

Despite their renowned lazy nature, sloths are incredible swimmers. Swimming is actually one of the few reasons they leave the comfort of a tree – relieving themselves is another. Classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, male pygmy three-toed sloths will swim phenomenal distances in search of a mate.

On the sands of the aptly nicknamed Pig Beach in the Exuma district of the Bahamas, pigs are known not to fly, but swim. No one quite knows how these feral pigs found their way to this exotic location, but travellers from all over the world journey to Big Major Cay to swim among them.

Dytiscidae, derived from the Greek dytikos, meaning ‘able to dive’, are more commonly known as the predaceous diving beetles. They
can be found propelling themselves into the streams of Europe and Asia, preying on small insects and even fish bigger than themselves. These little critters use their spiracles to breathe and stay underwater as long as possible in order to hunt and nest.

The stereotype that cats are petrified of water may apply to our household companions, but it is certainly not true of their larger feline cousins. Unlike many other big cats in the Felidae family, tigers are competent swimmers that use the lakes and streams of Asia to cool off and escape the midday heat.

In the animal kingdom, size should definitely not be an indicator as to whether or not a mammal has the capacity to swim. Surprisingly, an elephant’s massive body actually gives it the buoyancy that it needs to float easily. Their trunks even act like a snorkel to help them breathe normally and swim long distances.

Believe it or not, moose are naturally gifted swimmers, with even their calves knowing how to manoeuvre through water. Despite their bulk, they can swim around 9.7 kilometres per hour (six miles per hour) and completely submerge themselves for up to 30 seconds. They are almost as at home in the water as on land.


(Photos and text from the feature Secret Swimmers in Issue 47 of World of Animals. Issue 47 is no longer on sale in stores but you can get a copy online if you missed it!)