Can Cows Swim?


  • Cows are good swimmers and have been recorded travelling many kilometres in flood waters, although exhausted animals will drown
  • Farmers in the Scottish Highlands used to regularly ‘swim’ their cattle across the sea to islands for winter grazing. In 2011 the BBC filmed 79-year-old crofter Iain MacDonald, still swimming cattle across to the Isle of Skye after 60 years.
  • A type of African Kuri cattle of the Lake Chad Basin that spends much of its time in water has developed massive bulbous horns (up to 150cm in length and 100cm in circumference) that tip its head back, keeping its nostrils out of the water. It’s thought that the horns’ spongy interior helps with buoyancy.
  • For the nomadic Fulani people in Mali, the annual cattle crossing over the Niger river at Diafarabe to find better grazing for herds is also an important date in the social calendar for human matchmaking
  • To solve the serious problem of ‘down cow’ – when an injured or sick cow lies down and won’t shift its weight, which can can result in nerve and muscle damage within six hours -  special floation tanks have been invented that turn a down cow into an up one

Want more evidence?
Skye crofter ‘last’ to swim his cattle between grazings
500kg cow rescued after being found swimming in sea off Darwin

Animal Genetics Training Resource: Kuri
The unique Kuri cattle of the Lake Chad Basin
Diafarabe Cattle Crossing
How to float a cow

Have you seen one swim? Let us know below.

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