Donkeys are often seen as a stubborn, hard-working breed. They’re intelligent and independent, which makes them ideal for families who live in rural areas. If you are familiar with donkeys, you would have wondered if they can actually swim or be in waters like some other farm animals. The short answer is yes, but most jacks can swim if appropriately trained. But you should know some things before taking your donkey into the water.

Can donkeys swim?

If you’re wondering whether or not your donkey can swim, the answer is yes. Donkeys can swim in water up to their knees, bellies, and shoulders, depending on the depth. However, they could be better at it and should be observed near water.

The short answer is yes; they can

Donkeys are not naturally aquatic animals, and it may take some training before they are comfortable swimming in a lake or river, but they can do it with practice. Many donkey owners report their donkeys love going into the water and will swim after sticks are thrown in by their owners.

It’s important to note that donkeys cannot float with their heads above water for long. It’s also good to remember that when your donkey goes into the water, keep an eye on them at all times to prevent drowning accidents.

It may not be an instinctive trait and must be trained

Donkeys are very strong and can swim long distances, but they may only know how to swim if they have been taught. Donkeys can be trained to swim in deep water, open water, or even through shallow areas where the depth of the water is no more than 2 feet (0.6 m).

There are breeds of donkeys that live in mountainous areas

You may have heard that donkeys are naturally good swimmers, which is not valid, and it’s something to keep in mind if you’re thinking of getting a donkey. While some breeds are more adapted to swimming than others (for example, the Koniks of Turkey), all donkeys need their hooves on solid ground when in danger.

Donkeys who live in mountainous regions may encounter lakes and rivers that they need to cross regularly—and these animals may also find themselves swimming more often than other donkeys do since it’s easier for them to traverse bodies of water. If they need to cross a river or lake to get from one side to another, they can do so with relative ease because they’re used to the water’s currents and temperature.

donkeys pulling a cart through river

Most domesticated donkeys have not been typically trained to swim

Donkeys are typically not trained to swim, so if your donkey is not used to swimming, he may be uncomfortable or scared in the water, leading him to panic and drown.

However, some donkeys have been trained as therapy animals that help patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease during early morning walks at nursing homes.

These donkeys have been taught to swim to keep up with their human companions while hiking through shallow waters.

The best way for you and your donkey friend to learn how to swim together is by practicing in a shallow body of water before trying it on a deeper one—and never leave them unattended.

A donkey in Arizona likely won’t swim very often, if at all

Donkeys are wild animals. Though some people keep them as pets and treat them like dogs, donkeys have not been domesticated in the same way that horses or dogs have.

That’s why you will not see a donkey swimming in the wild. They fear water and won’t go near it unless they have to.

However, there are exceptions to this rule: donkeys that live in mountainous areas may need (or want) to swim from time to time. If a person is hiking with their donkey and decides to take a dip in a nearby lake or stream for fun (and maybe even for exercise), then your donkey could join you.

A donkey who lives in the Everglades might get a lot of swimming practice

If you live in abundant water, such as the Everglades or the Chesapeake Bay, your donkey might get plenty of swimming practice. If he does, he’ll likely have more experience with it than you. As a result, he may be more comfortable around water and more willing to dive right in.

Start by introducing him gradually to different bodies of water

If you want to train your donkey to swim, start by introducing him gradually to different bodies of water – ponds first, then lakes and rivers.

Don’t push them too far or force them into deep water until they’re ready. Keep an eye out for signs of trouble (braying), indicating they feel uneasy in the water.

Keep a rope in hand (and in reach) so that if anything goes wrong, you can quickly pull your donkey out of the water safely and dry him off. Don’t let donkeys drink from ponds or lakes—the water could be contaminated.

Only force your donkey into deep water once he is ready

Donkeys are not natural swimmers; they were bred to walk on land, not swim in the water. As a result, they’re more likely to panic when placed in deep water than other hoofed animals like horses.

If your donkey has never been swimming before, he will likely panic if he’s forced into the water without being adequately conditioned for it or given ample time to get used to it. Donkeys can also drown if they panic and begin thrashing wildly to escape deeper waters or dangerous situations (such as predators).

Therefore, you should never force your donkey into deep water until he is ready—and even then, only do so when there’s no danger.

Donkeys can swim, but it could be more intuitive for them

Donkeys are not born with a swimming instinct, and they must be trained to swim and may even need to be taught how to float on their backs so they don’t drown when accidentally submerged in water.


Donkeys are versatile and intelligent, but they are not instinctively good swimmers. However, you can train your donkey to swim by slowly introducing him to different bodies of water. Also, don’t force your donkey into deep water until he is ready, as this could panic him and put his life in danger.


  • Surej S

    Surej is an avid animal lover and our associate editor at Donkey on Farm. His favorites are donkeys, cats and cows.

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