Can Sheep Swim? Are Sheep Afraid Of Water?

sheep can swim

We all know that sheep are friendly and adorable. They are also known to be a sensitive and intelligent animal with the brainpower that’s equal to monkeys. Like any other animal, water is a necessary part of their lives. You might see this animal feeding on the grass or drink water by a river, but do you ever wonder “Can sheep swim?”. If they do, do they enjoy it? Let’s find out the details in this article.

can sheep swim?

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Are sheep afraid of water?

Water is one of the most important elements of sheep’s living. To maintain a sheep farm, one of the conditions is to have a source of fresh clean water. However, can sheep swim and enjoy themselves in the water?

Sheep are not afraid of water, but it doesn’t mean they like water. They can stay on the side to drink the water, but not stay or swim in the water. They will never get in the water if they don’t have any good reason.

Most of the time, if you have the opportunity to see sheep swimming, you might see that sheep swim like it’s a necessity rather than an enjoyment.

There are some below cases which seem to get a sheep to swim:

  • Food – Get to find better pastures.
  • Sex – Attracted by another female sheep on the other side.
  • Shepherd – Led by their shepherd to cross the water.
  • Sheepdog – Driven by sheepdog into water.
  • Fear – Escape from predators.

Read More: How Long Can Diving Ducks Stay Underwater? Here’s how long different duck species can stay under the water (and how deep they can go!)

However, still water does benefit sheeps

Clean and pure water plays a very crucial role in disease and parasite prevention. The fact that sheep need 1.5-3 gallons of water per day leads to the need for a good source of water. Some benefits of still water that can be listed are:

  • Enable a healthier sheep flock.
  • Allow sheep to remove waste and toxins through their urine effectively.
  • Lubricate their joints.
  • Balance the body temperature through sweat.

Tip: Farmers can have some fish and aquatic plants to clean and balance the oxygen in the water.

But, running water is a potential danger

Sheep are not fond of swimming in the water, especially running water. Running water is proved to be dangerous not only to sheep but to a lot of animals.

There are three main reasons that it becomes a potential danger to sheep.

  • First, because of the slow-moving speed, sheep can be easily swept away in the fast-moving water.
  • Second, in case of rocks in the water, sheep seem to lose their balance while walking.
  • Last but not least, sheep’s wool gets soaked, so becomes heavy very fast.

>>> Are you raising sheep? Check top 7 Best Sheep Shearing & Clippers here!

Can sheep swim?

sheep can swim

Sheep were not born to be natural swimmers. They, really, can swim and float on the surface of the water as their instinct, but they will not enjoy it, as mentioned above.

Their swimming pattern is like a horse trotting, and their method of swimming is described as a dog paddle. They manage to keep their head above the water for breathing the air with their legs continuously moving like a dog.

In case of falling into a river or flooding, they will try to survive instead of letting themselves drown.

There was an incident recorded in New Zealand in February 2020 that a group of sheep managed to survive a flood. When a man was walking and recording a video, he saw those sheep on the other side of the flood bank, standing still because they had nowhere to go. He tried to signal the sheep to come, and after a few minutes, they decided to move to his side safely.

From the incident above, it can be seen that sheep possibly move across the water if they feel safe.

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Be wary of sheep drowning

Sheep know how to swim, however, accidents can’t be avoided. They can drown like any creatures if:

  • Get exhausted in the water
  • Currents are too strong
  • Their wool become heavy because of water
  • Their wool gets stuck in some rock

Read More: Best Sheep Shears for Farmers. These sheep shears were put through testing to see how they performed and here’s what we found.

How far sheep can swim?

Until now, there’s no exact record of how far sheep can swim. Part of the reason is that sheep only swim in specific cases that are compulsory. They don’t swim for any competition or enjoyment, but definitely, the answer to the question “Can sheep swim?” is yes.


All in all, we know clearly the answer to “Can sheep swim?”. They are truly intelligent animals. They observe, think, and then decide to swim or not in most of the cases instead of jumping in the water for no reason. So, from now on, if you see a sheep swimming, try to find what the reason is, and to see if it needs your help.

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