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Can Wolves Swim? (Yes, Surprisingly Well)

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Wolves can swim, and they can do so surprisingly well. They can swim long distances and are even quite fast in the water. 

While wolves typically hunt for food on land, they are known to both fish and chase their prey into the water.

When this happens, swimming comes in handy. And wolves are surprisingly good at swimming.

There’s even a wolf species called the “Sea wolf”.

In this article, we’ll explore wolves’ swimming capabilities.

Can Wolves Swim?

Yes, wolves can swim, and they do so very well. They can swim very long distances, though it depends on the species. The longest recorded swim was about 7.5 miles. 

There are several reasons why wolves swim. One reason is hunting. When wolves prey tries to escape, they may cross a river. Here, wolves have no problem keeping up with their prey.

Additionally, swimming helps wolves cool down on hot days. Wolves have big fur coats. Though they shed some of their furs during the Spring, warm weather can cause dehydration. 

Wolves are also known to eat fish. When fishing, they may swim into a lake or river to catch fish.


When it comes to swimming abilities, the sea wolf stands out amongst the crowd of wolves. This is a subspecies of the Canis lupus that has evolved very strong swimming abilities.

Seawolves can only be found in the Great Bear Rainforest along the Pacific Coast of Canada. These wolf-like creatures were able to adapt and can now live their lives swimming across oceans or rivers.

They swim from island to island, often covering miles of water at a time.

These wolves enjoy the 21-million acres of almost undisturbed wilderness. They feed off of fish and other seafood. Salmon alone makes up about 25% of their diet – a much larger portion than most other wolves. Seafood makes up about 90% of their entire diet, whereas normally wolves prefer to eat ungulates.

The waters around them are filled with salmon, wolves’ preferred fish to eat.

These wolves have genetics that sets them apart from other wolves. While genetic differences amongst wolf species aren’t uncommon, it’s very rare to see this natural genetic evolution contained in such a small area. [1]

Seawolves are typically smaller than the average grey wolf, about the size of a german shepherd.

sea wolves

How Do Wolves Swim?

Wolves swim much like dogs too. They use all four legs to paddle, propelling them forward. They may either dive in and start propelling right away or go in slowly, starting their swimming motion with just their front legs.

The outer layer of wolves’ fur is designed not just as protection from physical elements such as rain. It also offers insulation against cold water. This makes it easier for wolves to withstand extended periods of time in cold waters. 

What would otherwise cause hypothermia in humans doesn’t have the same effect on wolves.

Their ability to swim depends very much on their size. Bigger wolves will have a harder time swimming for longer periods of time, whereas smaller wolves have an easier time.

This may also be the reason why Seawolves are generally smaller in stature.

When Do Wolves Swim

Wolves usually only go swimming when they are hot, running after prey, or if their prey is across a river and there’s no other way to get it. 

Wolves also go swimming when they’re fishing, as it may be difficult for them to reach fish from the shore.

Related: Are wolves carnivores?

How Far Can Wolves Swim?

Wolves can swim surprisingly well and can cover a lot of ground in the water. The longest observed wolf swim was an impressive 7.5 miles (12 km).

Seawolves are the best swimmer amongst all wolves, and the average wolf may only be able to swim a couple of miles at most.

How Fast Can Wolves Swim?

Wolves can swim at a speed of about three to five miles per hour. Their swimming speed depends on their strength and size.

The heavier a wolf is, the slower it typically swims. If the water is shallow, they will jump across it instead.

Are Wolves Scared of Water?

No, wolves aren’t scared of water. 

Wolves are comfortable in the water and are excellent swimmers. The sea wolves are so comfortable that sea animals make up 90% of their diet.

wolf near water

Do All Wolves Swim?

Yes, all wolves have the ability to swim. Even though they can swim, not all wolves live near the water all of the time.

Wolves are known to roam large areas, where their home territory may even make up hundreds of miles. As they travel across their land, they’ll most likely come across a river at some point. Here, they may choose to cross it or simply walk around.

Do Arctic Wolves Swim?

Arctic wolves can swim, but they are not as good at it as sea wolves. 

They can swim short distances, typically less than a mile, but they will usually avoid swimming if possible. This is because the water in the Arctic is so cold that it can be dangerous to swim in for extended periods.

Arctic wolves will typically go into the water if they’re chasing prey, though they aren’t as good swimmers as penguins or seals, which they prey upon.

They’re very intelligent animals and know when not to jump in the water. Especially during the winter months, where most of the water is frozen, they’ll stay out of it. They’ll typically also avoid any water with strong currents, as it can be dangerous to them.

arctic wolf near icy water


Wolves are, unbeknownst to most people, very great swimmers. They can cover a lot of ground in the water, and will often do so when traveling, hunting, or otherwise having to cross a river.

Wolves can swim up to five miles per hour, but can’t stay submerged in water for very long. While they aren’t as comfortable in the water as some other animals, wolves are capable swimmers that should not be underestimated. 

Seawolves are the best swimmers amongst the wolf species. These are a subspecies of wolves, living in Canada. They’ve developed enhanced swimming abilities, as they often need to swim from island to island.

This type of wolf feeds primarily off of seafood, where salmon makes up 25% of their entire diet.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.

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