Can Elephants Swim? (Surprising Facts You Should Know)

Elephants are known to live in a habitat that has enough capacities of food and water. But how are elephants in the water? Let us find out.

So can elephants swim? The answer is yes; elephants can swim. Elephants use their trunk so that they can breathe underwater.

For most animals, swimming is just natural. If you throw your dog in the water and it is their first time in the water, the dog will survive because they know how to swim. And that is instinct like the moment they were born; they are already gifted with the ability to swim in the water. 

But when it comes to animals, some doubts would arise. A lot of people think that elephants cannot swim. Even you, you might have been thinking before that there is no way elephants can swim. 

They are huge, and they cannot carry their body in the water. But that is where you are wrong. 

Elephants can swim perfectly fine. So now, let us talk all about elephants and swimming. Have fun!

Are Elephants Good At Swimming?

Even though many people think that elephants cannot swim because of their enormous size, elephants can swim. Elephants are considered the largest and heaviest mammal in the world. 

Adult elephants cannot even jump because of their size. But when it comes to the water, elephants know what to do. 

An African elephant can weigh up to two point five to seven tons. But despite their incredible weight, these mammals can swim well, and like many other animals, elephants are natural swimmers. 

People think that elephants cannot swim because they are too heavy. But the reality is that elephants can swim with their mass as a big contributing factor. Their body mass is a significant contributing factor in allowing them to swim underwater. 

Their body weight helps in keeping them afloat. The weight of an elephant can give them just enough buoyancy so that they can float. These elephants can also submerge underwater if they need to. 

They can use their trunk if they go underwater. Like other mammals, elephants are very good at swimming, and they can also be untiring swimmers. When elephants swim, they swim with all their legs. 

With four legs moving, elephants can swim and move fast in the water. To add to that, the bodyweight of the elephant can also provide the elephant good buoyancy and keep them afloat in the water. The built-in snorkel will also allow them to breathe underwater.

Related: Can Elephants Jump?

Can Baby Elephants Swim?

Baby elephants are another story, though. Unlike adult elephants, baby elephants still cannot swim until they are a few months old. If a baby elephant goes into the water by accident or not, the baby elephant can be in danger of drowning. 

Baby elephants cannot swim, and they must be rescued if they fall into the water. As mentioned, the weight of the elephants is a substantial contributing factor in making an elephant afloat in the water. So if it is a baby elephant, the baby elephant is still not heavy enough or big enough to stay afloat in the water. 

Unlike an adult elephant, a baby elephant cannot remain composed and calm when thrown into the water. So until an elephant is only months old, do not put them near deep water because they might accidentally fall in, and they still cannot swim; they can drown in the water. 

Body mass helps the elephants in giving them enough buoyancy so that they can float. Baby elephants are still not gifted with the massive weight and size because they are still tiny, so they have to wait a few more months to swim in the water quickly.

Are Elephants Natural Swimmers?

Yes, elephants are natural swimmers. Opposite from what other people are thinking, elephants can swim. They are excellent swimmers, and they are natural swimmers. 

If an elephant would get tired walking around all day because elephants love walking around and would always love to move about, they would go to the water and swim. Again, the same with other mammals, elephants are natural swimmers. If elephants are in the water and submerge themselves in the water, they can use their trunks as snorkel for breathing underwater. 

How cool is that? It is like a natural snorkel embedded in their body. With this trunk that functions as a built-in snorkel, elephants can swim for hours and hours without stopping because they can breathe underwater. And that is not the end of it. 

Like walking, swimming can also be exhausting for elephants. So if an elephant is tired of swimming, it can just afloat. With the body mass of an elephant, it would easily float and rest.

When Do Elephants Learn To Swim?

As mentioned in the other sections, elephants are considered natural swimmers. So if you would ask if baby elephants already know how to swim, the answer is not yet. Baby elephants still cannot swim. 

Some researchers have found out that baby elephants cannot swim until they are several months old. If you bring a baby elephant in the water, it will drown because it still has no idea where to swim. So in a natural habitat, if a baby elephant would go near the water, the baby elephant’s mother would be close to the baby elephant. 

The mother of the baby elephant would stay with its baby every time they are in the water. Even if the baby elephant still does not know how to swim, baby elephants adore water, and they love playing in the water. When they are in the water, the baby elephant would have the chance to use their trunk in playing and to practice using their trunk. 

You should know that a baby elephant still does not know how to use and control their trunks. Baby elephants would even use their mouth for drinking and not their trunk.

swimming elephant

How Far Can Elephants Swim?

One thing you might notice about elephants is that they love walking. Elephants love moving around. And wherever they are, elephants love to keep moving around. 

If an elephant is in the land, it can walk on an average of twenty-five kilometers in a day. That would be about fifteen and a half miles in one day. 

That is a lot of walks. As mentioned, elephants love moving around wherever they are. So, on the other hand, if the elephant is in the water, they can swim up to four hundred eighty kilometers in a day. 

That would be three hundred miles! That is also a good swim. So it is confirmed that elephants can do good both in water and in the land. 

It would help if you remembered that for an elephant to swim well in water, they have to be adults. No baby elephants can swim in the water.

How Long Can Elephants Swim?

Elephants are natural swimmers, and they are also strong swimmers. Elephants swimming have been recorded to be fifty kilometers across the water. Elephants are also recorded to swim for six hours continuously without rest. 

That is how amazing an elephant is in terms of its swimming capability. So if you have the notion before that elephants cannot swim because they are heavy, throw that notion away because elephants are excellent swimmers, and they are also excellent natural swimmers. But there is another truth: if the elephant chose to stay in the water, it can. 

They cannot run out of breath if they are submerged into the water because they have their trunk that serves as a snorkel to breathe even if they are submerged underwater. If the elephant gets tired of swimming, they can rest by floating in the water. Their massive weight is a huge factor in helping them to stay floating in the air.

Can Elephants Be Underwater?

Elephants love being underwater. You should know way back an elephant is still tiny, that they already love being in the water. Elephants also love being underwater.

It is not a bother to them because they can breathe fine. Elephants can submerge their body underwater, but they can still breathe because they can use their trunk for breathing. It is like a built-in snorkel in their face. 

They can use their trunk for breathing air from above. So with this built-in snorkel, elephants can breathe underwater, and they can swim for hours without stopping. Well, if an elephant gets tired of swimming underwater, it can rest. 

When we say rest, the elephant can halt on swimming, and they can stay afloat to rest their feet and body. The body mass of the elephant will keep it afloat. It will have enough buoyancy to float and allow them to stay in the water.

Can Elephants Breathe Underwater?

The answer to this is yes. Elephants can breathe underwater. If the whole body of the elephant is submerged in the water, the elephant cannot breathe at all. 

They might have just a few moments to hold their breath. What happens is that the trunks of the elephant have to go above the water. This trunk will serve as a natural snorkel to allow the elephant to breathe underwater. 

So that is how an elephant can breathe even if its body is submerged underwater. They have their built-in snorkel. These mammals can breathe through their trunk. 

One purpose of the elephant’s trunk is to allow them to breathe on it when they are submerged underwater. This is the reason why elephants can stay alive even if their entire body is underwater. So you have nothing to worry about if you see an elephant underwater; that elephant is breathing through its trunk.

You Might Also Read: Can Elephants See Colors Or Are They Colorblind?

How Long Can An Elephant Stay Underwater?

Because elephants can use their trunk for breathing underwater, elephants can stay underwater as long as they want. As long as the elephant is getting oxygen through its trunk, the elephant can stay underwater. 

If the elephant wants to go to the land, they can get out of the water. So an elephant will go out of the water if they are tired of swimming or want to go to the land again.

Why Do Elephants Swim? 

Even when an elephant is just a baby, it already loves to be in the water. Mammals inhabit a place that has both water and land on it. That is also because most mammals love water.


In summary, elephants are thought to be incapable of swimming because of their body mass, but in fact, elephants are considered to be excellent swimmers. They love to swim.

Elephants can also go underwater. Underwater, elephants can breathe using their trunks, making them stay underwater for so long. The elephant can stay underwater as long as they like because they do not have to worry about losing their breath.


Image credits – Canva

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I'm David, and safari has been my passion since I was a little boy - I grew up in South Africa. I love to help spread knowledge about safari, so let me know if you have any questions. Read more