Can Sheep Swim?

Can Sheep Swim

Although swimming is quite an enjoyable affair for many of us, it can be rather daunting for our four-legged animals that have differently-built anatomy. Take sheep for instance; can you imagine these woolly creatures swimming easily in the water? Not really. But can they swim under any circumstance? That’s what we are going to talk about in this article.

Can sheep swim? Although sheep are not really fond of getting submerged in water and would rather spend their day grazing, when it comes to their survival, these ruminants will certainly swim. They can also float on the surface of the water, but not for long (only as long as their wool coat is dry). With that being said, sheep are no graceful swimmers and swim somewhat like the horses that trot in water. Being submerged in water is dangerous for them, for it can lead to Hypothermia.

Below, we will explore different aspects of sheep and swimming: their approach towards the water, floating and swimming capabilities, reasons that can lead to them swimming, and so on.


Do Sheep Like Water? Or Are They Afraid Of It?

Before we move ahead to talk about whether or not sheep can swim, let’s discuss how they feel about water? Do they like it, or are they afraid of it?

Like all the other animals, sheep need access to plenty of fresh water in order to lead a healthy life as well. So, if you wanted to know whether or not they like drinking water, they do. But that is the only reason these ruminants like water.

Getting into water, even for a dip, is not their typical idea of fun. While they aren’t afraid of water, they don’t like it either. It is because they have large wool coats that can make any kind of movement a struggle for them when submerged in water.

In other words, being in the water is extremely inconvenient for them, which is why they try to avoid it as much as possible.


Can Sheep Float On Water?

Many of you might have come across the videos of sheep floating on water on the internet. Are you curious if it is really possible? In order to satiate your curiosity, we’ll give you the answer you have been looking for.

Yes, sheep can float on water. However, they have a limitation. These ruminants have a certain amount of buoyancy and can stay afloat in water for a short while. It will last as long as their wool coat is not completely water-logged.

Once the water is inside their coat, they will begin to sink unless they attempt to swim their way out of the water.
So, if you have a pet sheep and you find them floating on the surface of a water body, don’t leave them alone assuming they’re having fun and can take care of themselves. Instead, help them in getting out of the water.


What About Swimming? Can They Do It At All?

One thing you need to know about sheep is: these fluffy creatures are not natural swimmers. Their lack of swimming skills can be attributed to their lifestyle in the wild.

Whether these ruminants live in the mountains or grassy plains, they usually stick to grazing in herds and are rarely exposed to water other than for drinking. Therefore, they have an approach towards water that is very different from that of animals like dogs that spend most of their lives around water.

With that being said, these ruminants will only swim when the circumstances compel them, and their very survival is at risk. In a case study, a flock of sheep was placed on a grassy pasture.

As soon as they began to graze, a large wave of water was sent their way, covering them in water. When swimming or drowning seemed like the only two choices they had, the flock somehow managed to help each other swim to the shore.

This case study teaches us that it’s not like sheep cannot swim at all. Like most of the other four-legged animals, they can swim as well. But they will only do so when it is absolutely vital and unavoidable.


Under what circumstances can sheep swim?

From what we’ve learned so far, sheep are not really fond of swimming and would never do it voluntarily under normal circumstances.

Do you wonder what situations can possibly make these ruminants do something as risky as swimming? Don’t worry, we’re going to give you some of the most common circumstances in which you will find them swimming:

  • Sheep are those animals that can get frightened very easily. If they’re afraid, they can do unthinkable things to get out of that situation, including swimming. For instance, let’s assume that a deadly predator is in pursuit of sheep, and the only way to escape it is to cross a stream. Would the sheep do it? Absolutely.
  • Sheep are completely dedicated to their shepherd and trust them blindly. Therefore, if their shepherd asks them to cross a water body, they will do it to the best of their abilities.


Are Sheep Good Swimmers?

In the previous section, we learned that sheep can indeed swim, but would only do so under compulsion or urgency. Now, we will talk about their swimming skills. Are they good or bad swimmers?

First and foremost, sheep are four-legged terrestrial animals with an anatomy that isn’t built for swimming, which is why it would be foolish to expect them to be graceful or seasoned swimmers. These ruminants are in no way good swimmers; they can only manage to swim well enough to bring themselves back to safety.

Whenever the sheep need to swim, they usually follow one of these two movements: horse-trot and dog-paddle (the former one is used more frequently by them than the latter).

On some occasions, you can also find them simply relax and float on the surface. However, they cannot keep doing it for long (only until their wool coat is water-logged), especially if the water is deep enough for them to drown in.


If They Start Swimming, How Far Are They Likely To Reach?

As we’ve already stated earlier, sheep are not built to swim. Moreover, they are also not energetic like horses and lack the stamina it takes to swim long distances. Even the young and healthy sheep will feel tired and spent after spending less than half an hour in the water.

Although there is no proper record of how far sheep can swim, we would say that most of them wouldn’t be able to cross the distance of 100 yards. Their swimming capacity also depends on their age, health, and the length of their wool fleece.


Can Getting Wet Hurt A Sheep In Any Way?

There’s a reason why sheep are not very fond of water. Most people think that drowning is the only potential threat that sheep can face when getting into the water. But these ruminants can suffer serious consequences even after they come out of the water.


The Risk Of Hypothermia

The wool coat of sheep is what keeps them warm and protected against harsh climate. But if the sheep remain soaked in water for a long period of time, particularly in the cold weather, they can succumb to Hypothermia.

Following are some of the common symptoms of Hypothermia in sheep:

  • Intense and intermittent shivering
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • A considerable downfall in heart rate (Brachycardia)
  • Low body temperature
  • Slower blood circulation in the body, especially the legs

Hypothermia is a rather painful experience for the sheep and can be potentially life-threatening. This is why we recommend you not to let your sheep get anywhere near the water, particularly during winters.

Even if they somehow manage to get submerged in water, your course of action should be to get them out, dry their wool coat properly, and wrap them in a blanket.


Can Sheep Shrink If Their Wool Gets Wet?

While being soaked in water can certainly be bad for the health of sheep, have you wondered the effect it could have on their wool? What happens to the wool when it gets wet? Does it shrink? No. Unlike the fleece of the alpaca, the wool coat of sheep does not have any lasting impact of water on it.

This is because of the presence of a thick, natural oil in their wool, called Lanolin (also referred to as “wool grease”, “wool wax”, and “wool yoke”).

Lanolin prevents their wool from shrinking when exposed to water. However, in the process of shearing wool, this oil is removed from the wool, which is why the woolen sweaters and garments can shrink, unlike the wool.

Because of its waterproof quality, lanolin is used in a variety of skincare products and solutions.


Conclusion: Can Sheep Swim?

In order to wrap it up, let’s quickly revisit all we have learned about sheep and swimming in this article. Sheep are grazing ruminants that only like water for drinking purposes and nothing more.

Although they’re not really afraid of water, being submerged in it with their thick wool coats can be a struggle for them, which is why they avoid it as far as possible. However, if their survival is threatened, these ruminants will somehow manage to swim to safety.


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