Can Lions Swim? Are Lions Scared of Water? (Explained)

The lion is considered the “king of the jungle” and one of the most ferocious animals out there in the wild. But when it comes to water, there is still so much confusion in many people’s minds, and they are unsure of the jungle king’s swimming abilities. So, let’s see the relationship between a lion and water and clear all your doubts.

Can Lions Swim?

According to researchers, lions can swim. They are not like tigers which spend some time in the water regularly, but when they have to, they will. They will swim through rivers, lakes, and ponds when the water gives them an advantage. They aren’t as comfortable as other big cats, but they manage.

Do Lions Like To Swim?

A variety of big cats, such as tigers, leopards, and jaguars, like to swim, and we can see them chilling in the waters most of the time but not lions.

Naturally, the lions which live close to a river or some water body have much more likeness and comfort with water than others. For example, lion populations in the Okavango Delta of Botswana are known for their affinity for water.

Are Lions Scared of Water?

No, they are not. They just don’t like water very much. On a hot summer day, lions may try to cool off every now, but you may notice them avoiding water the other times. Lions are not fans of water. They prefer open grasslands or deciduous forests.

But in some cases, with all the deforestation and global warming happening, some species have started to live close to water bodies because of the availability of food and comparatively cooler temperatures.

Can Lions Swim in Deep Water?

Though lions are powerful, they are still terrestrial animals. Lions do not swim in the oceans or any deep water if that matters. It’s because it’s not their territory. Another great thing to observe about these animals is finding the best way to navigate the water.

For instance, when their prey runs across the river, lions would find the shallowest part and run across it. It gives these animals an advantage since they know all shortcuts and are familiar with their territory.

Also Read: Do Lions Eat Fish? Can Lions Hunt Fish?

How Fast Can A Lion Swim?

When swimming normally, lions reach 10-12 mph. They keep a slow and steady pace to keep them from drowning and safely get where they want to go. But if they swim fast, they can even reach around 30 mph.

Another key factor here is that the moment lions jump in the water, their fur gets wet. Heavy wet coats slow down their already poor swimming ability, so they can’t maintain a high speed for a long distance.

Photo by Lachcim Kejarko

Can Lions Swim Faster Than Humans?

Lions might not be the best when in water, but they can still out beat humans. Even though how fast we swim, the best of us would barely cross 5 mph, and lions don’t have to try very hard to pass that. If we set aside the questions about their fondness of water, they pretty much do well when it comes to swimming.

Can Lions Swim Underwater?

Lions cannot swim underwater, and they can only swim in water bodies until three feet deep. If we see how lions swim, they duck their bodies and heads above the water while keeping their limbs straight. They move their limbs in the forward direction to create motion in the water. The upper limbs move in tandem, and the same with the back limbs.

When Do Lions Swim?

Unlike their close relatives, the tigers, lions won’t swim for miles in open water. They don’t mind swimming, but they do mostly for particular reasons.

  • To Cool Off:

The first and foremost reason a lion goes into the water is to cool off and relax its muscles. When the temperatures reach their peaks, hot-blooded animals like lions suffer a lot to maintain their body temperature. The only blessing they have during this boiling period is water.

  • To Chase Prey:

Being a predator, catching its prey is one of the most important things, and lions make sure that they catch their prey at any cost. So in situations like these, they will be more than willing to swim and they regularly chase buffalos and antelopes into the water before killing and dragging them back on land. Lions also like to hunt deer, zebras, and wild hogs.

Sometimes, lions also use water to their advantage by stalking their prey from shallow waters and reeds where they cannot be noticed easily and wading through water to get closer to unsuspecting animals.

Also Read: Do Lions Eat Bones? Can Lions Digest Bones Of Their Prey?

  • To Reach Other Lands:

Animals don’t have bridges like us to cross the water and reach the other part of the land. So, they swim through the water to reach the ground, and lions have been known to cross rivers in their path.


To survive in the ecosystem, animals adapt to changes in their habitat and nature. Water is not the preferred habitat of lions, but for survival, they have to make themselves flexible.

The lions that live in the Okavango Delta in Botswana live in an area where water is everywhere around them, as we discussed earlier. Now they even learned to hunt in water, and they are pretty good swimmers because they are more used to the water than the other lions.


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