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Can Lions Swim & Do They Like or Hate Water?

Lions can swim. They don’t like or dislike water, but they will swim through rivers, lakes, and ponds if they need to. They aren’t as comfortable in the water as some other big cats but they are capable swimmers.

Lions swim when they have to. Contrary to popular belief, these big cats aren’t afraid of water. They will cross rivers, lakes, and other obstacles in their way.

In some regions, lions swim more than others. They use shallow water and reeds to stalk their prey, and they can swim to get in a better position.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the way lions swim. We’ll also look at why lions swim and if they are scared of water.

Can Lions Swim?

Yes, lions can swim. Most people think of cats as bad swimmers that are scared of water, but they are certainly capable. Lions swim when they need to or when the water gives them an advantage. They aren’t as comfortable in the water as tigers and jaguars, but they manage.

Lions can swim, and they do so much more than people think. They are capable swimmers and they can use their abilities to cross obstacles like rivers, lakes, and ponds. 

They can also gain an advantage by hunting in the water, as they can get to better stalking spots by crossing rivers. 

Shallow water and the reeds and grasses that grow in it also help lions hide.

Lions that live closer to large river systems and lakes are generally more comfortable in water than others. For example, lion populations in the Okavango Delta of Botswana are known for their affinity for water. These ecosystems are of major importance for biodiversity.[1]

Can Lions Swim
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How Do Lions Swim?

Lions swim in a similar fashion to other felines and dogs or wolves. They use their limbs to paddle through the water while keeping their bodies straight and their heads above water. They aren’t as efficient as other cats, like tigers or jaguars.

Lions swim by paddling through the water with their large, muscular limbs. If you’ve ever seen the way a dog or a cat moves in the water, you can expect the same style of movement from a lion.

Contrary to its name, “doggy paddle” swimming isn’t exclusive to dogs, or humans learning how to swim. Most quadrupedal mammals use the familiar doggy technique to swim, lions included. 

This isn’t the most efficient method, but it’s the only way lions can swim. It’s essentially a canter or a trot through the water.[2]

How Far Can Lions Swim?

Lions can’t swim very far. While they are capable swimmers and fast over short distances, they lack the stamina of other strong-swimming felines. Lions cross rivers and lakes, but prolonged swims through deep waters are tough for them.

While lions are fast and capable swimmers they aren’t the greatest over long distances. They generally avoid deep water and only do it if they can get to the other side fast.

Lions are generally powerful, heavy animals that are great at short bursts of energy, but not so good with endurance. 

Unlike their close relatives the tigers, lions won’t be swimming for miles in open water.

How Far Can Lions Swim

How Fast Can Lions Swim?

A lion can swim much faster than you’d think. They reach speeds of up to 25 mph, although they don’t always swim that fast. They have a regular swimming speed of about 11 mph. They aren’t great swimmers but they are faster than humans.

Lions are surprisingly fast swimmers. When swimming normally, they reach about 11 mph. They keep a slow and steady pace to safely get where they want to go. 

If they need to escape danger or catch prey, they can swim as fast as 25 mph.[3]

Swimming SpeedLionsHumans
Max25 mph5.05 mph
Average11 mph2 mph

They can’t maintain a high speed for a long distance, but their powerful limbs still propel them faster than humans. 

The fastest humans in water are barely faster than 5 mph. Lions don’t have to try very hard to pass that. 

When Do Lions Swim?

Lions swim when hunting or traveling. If they live in an area with many rivers prone to flooding, they will cross bodies of water. They can also use shallow waters to stalk their prey, sneaking up to it before pouncing.

Lions can swim whenever they want to and for many different reasons:

  1. To reach other lands.
  2. To catch prey.
  3. To cool off.

1. To Reach Other lands

To Reach Other lands

Lions may regularly need to cross bodies of water to get to where they are traveling. They have been known to cross rivers that are in their path. They will also swim over lakes and ponds.

If the water is deep and the distance long swimming can easily tire lions out.

2. To Catch Prey

To Catch Prey

Catching prey is one of the most important things for a predator. Lions are more than willing to swim if it means catching prey. They regularly chase antelopes and buffalos into the water before killing and dragging them back on land.

Lions can also use water to their advantage when stalking their prey. They frequently slowly wade through water to get closer to unsuspecting animals. 

Vegetation that grows close to the water’s edge, like reeds and other grasses, also helps them hide.

3. To Cool Off

Are Lions Scared of Water

Many animals in hot environments use bodies of water to cool off and relax. Lions regularly enter ponds and rivers on particularly hot days. This helps to bring their body temperatures down.

Are Lions Scared of Water?

No, lions aren’t scared of water. They don’t enjoy swimming as much as other felines, like tigers or jaguars but they are capable enough. They will go in the water if they have to or to cool off.

Lions aren’t scared of water. In spite of their similarities with our pet cats, this large feline doesn’t mind a quick swim when it’s necessary.

Swimming in crocodile or hippopotamus-infested waters can be dangerous for lions. Nevertheless, they will take a dip to hunt, travel, or just to cool off and relax.


Lions can swim. They are capable swimmers, much faster than any human but they can’t swim for long distances. They aren’t afraid of the water and regularly enjoy using ponds and rivers to cool off. Lions will also cross bodies of water when traveling and hunting, and they’ll use shallow water and reeds to better stalk their prey.

About Codrin Frunzete

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