Can Cheetahs Swim? Diving into the Unknown

Can cheetahs swim? Well, it’s not as cut and dry as some may think. Cheetahs are known for their speed on land, but their range near bodies of water is somewhat limited – that begs the question: Can they swim? It turns out the answer is yes – sort of!

Read on to find out exactly how cheetahs interact with aquatic environments and what kind of swimming capabilities these graceful spotted cats possess.

Can cheetahs swim?

Yes, cheetahs can indeed swim, although it’s not something they typically prefer or excel at. Cheetahs are designed for speed, not for aquatic maneuvers.

Their long, slender bodies and light bone structures are built for agility and quick bursts of speed on land, but these attributes don’t lend themselves well to swimming.

When faced with a body of water, a cheetah will likely attempt to find a way around it rather than diving in and swimming across. However, if necessary, they can certainly swim to get to the other side! But don’t expect them to win any medals in the Animal Olympics for their swimming skills.

How do cheetahs swim?

Cheetahs can swim in a doggy paddle style, using their powerful hind legs to propel themselves forward while their front paws paddle through the water. Their long tail acts as a rudder, helping them maintain direction and balance in the water.

Can Cheetahs Swim

However, cheetahs cannot swim as efficiently or as long as other big cats like tigers or jaguars due to their body shape and lack of webbed feet. They also tire quickly in water, making it a last resort option for crossing bodies of water.

Cheetah Anatomy and Swimming Adaptations

Cheetahs have a unique anatomy that is highly specialized for speed and agility on land but not for swimming. They possess a lightweight frame and a thin, streamlined body that minimizes air resistance while running. Their enormous nasal passages enable rapid oxygen uptake, which is essential for their high-speed pursuits.

When it comes to swimming, however, this anatomy is less advantageous. Cheetahs lack the webbed feet that many aquatic or semi-aquatic animals have for efficient paddling.

Their fur is not water-resistant, making them heavier and slower in the water. Moreover, unlike other big cats, cheetahs don’t have a layer of fat that could provide buoyancy during swimming.

Can Cheetahs Swim

Their long tail, though great for balance while chasing prey at high speeds on land, does serve a secondary purpose in the water. It acts as a rudimentary rudder, assisting in navigation while swimming.

However, despite having the basic capability to swim, it’s clear that cheetahs’ physical adaptations are predominantly suited to land-based activities. Their interaction with water is more a testament to their overall adaptability than any specific aquatic adaptation.

Cheetahs swimming behavior

While cheetahs can swim, it is not a natural behavior for them. They spend most of their time on land and have evolved into highly specialized hunters in this environment.

As such, they will typically avoid large bodies of water altogether and rely on their speed and agility to navigate around them. However, there may be instances where a cheetah needs to swim, such as to reach a different hunting ground or escape from danger.

In these cases, they will resort to their basic swimming abilities but will likely try to avoid the water in the future.

Why do cheetahs avoid swimming?

Cheetahs may be able to swim, but it’s not their preferred method of transportation. This is because their coats are not well-suited for getting wet and can become heavy, hindering their movements in the water.

Can Cheetahs Swim

Additionally, unlike other big cats who often live near or hunt in water sources, cheetahs prefer open savannas and arid regions with less access to water. Their lack of experience and practice with swimming also contributes to their reluctance in the water.

Swimming in captivity

In some cases, cheetahs may be trained to swim in captivity for rehabilitation or fitness purposes. However, this is not something they would typically encounter in the wild and does not come naturally to them.

Despite being capable of swimming, cheetahs need a natural habitat that aligns with their natural behaviors and abilities. So, while they may be able to paddle around in a pool for short periods of time, you won’t catch them taking a leisurely dip in the wild anytime soon!

Swimming as a survival skill

While swimming may not be a natural behavior for cheetahs, there have been recorded instances of using this ability to their advantage in the wild.

In 2011, a mother cheetah and her cubs were spotted swimming across a river in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve to avoid predators on land. The swift current posed a danger, but the cheetahs successfully reached the other side and continued their journey.

In another incident in 2017, a male cheetah was seen swimming across a river in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, likely trying to reach new territories or avoid competition with other males. These rare sightings demonstrate that cheetahs may not be natural swimmers but are adaptable and resourceful when necessary.

What swimming capabilities do cheetahs possess?

Cheetahs possess basic swimming abilities, though they are far from adept swimmers. They rely largely on the doggy paddle technique, with their powerful hind legs providing most of the propulsion.

Their front paws paddle through the water, helping them push forward, while their long tail is a rudimentary rudder, assisting in steering and maintaining balance.

However, the absence of webbed feet, a layer of fat for buoyancy, and water-resistant fur make swimming challenging for these land-adapted creatures.

They also tire easily in water due to their body being adapted for short bursts of speed rather than long-term stamina, limiting their swimming to short distances. In summary, while cheetahs can swim if necessary, they lack the specialized adaptations to make them strong, efficient swimmers.

What is Buoyancy?

To understand how cheetahs swim, we must also consider the concept of buoyancy. Buoyancy is an object’s ability to float in a liquid and is dependent on its density compared to the density of the liquid it is placed in.

Can Cheetahs Swim

As mentioned earlier, cheetahs have a lightweight body structure with a low fat percentage, which makes them less dense than water. This means they have a natural buoyancy, allowing them to stay afloat in the water without expending much energy.

However, this also means that they struggle to dive or swim underwater for extended periods as their body structure makes it challenging to overcome the upward force of buoyancy and maintain a submerged position.


The cheetah is a majestic, athletic animal capable of remarkable feats of speed and agility on land. But as it turns out, they’re not so impressive in the water.

While cheetahs can swim just fine, their lightweight frame and lack of specialized swimming adaptations make aquatic handiwork more challenging than other big cats.

Hopefully, with the help of this article, you have gained a better understanding of why these animals rarely dip in the pool! Should you ever find yourself around a body of water with a cheetah, it’s safe to assume they’d rather run around than through it.

And why not encourage them to do so? Taking even just a few precautionary steps can make all the difference in keeping them safe while they chase after their prey – and pursue their dreams.

Learn more about cheetahs:

How Fast Can a Cheetah Run?

Can Cheetahs Climb Trees? Here’s the Surprising Truth