Elephants are the biggest and heaviest land animals on the planet. There are 3 different species of elephants. Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), and the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana).
African bush elephants are the largest of the 3 and can weigh up to 22,000 lb, while Asian elephants are the smallest and can weigh up to 15,000 lb.
So how do these giants cope in the water; can elephants swim?
Despite being that heavy, elephants can swim. Actually, all species of elephants are great swimmers. They live in a warm climate, and swimming is a way to cool down. This may come as a surprise, but their body mass is what helps them to float. One of the interesting facts about elephants is that they can’t swim from the first day. It’s a skill that they learn when they are several months old. Their swimming style is quite interesting as well.
Can Elephants Swim?
How do elephants swim?
Elephants swim by floating in the water. Their body mass creates buoyancy enough to stay at the surface. This means that they can also dive down if they want to. Their face will stay above the surface while their mouths are submerged.
When in water, they use their trunks to breathe. You could say that they are not swimming, but snorkeling. To move around they use all four legs, and this enables them to swim long and fast.
How long can elephants swim?
When swimming, elephants use all four legs, and their body is buoyant enough that they can float in place. This method is energy efficient, and elephants can swim for a long time without getting tired.
Elephants can swim in both fresh water and saltwater, and they have been observed swimming for six hours without taking a rest.
Can elephants swim in deep water?
Elephants just love water. They live in warm parts of the planet and going for a dip is a perfect way to cool down. Often we can see elephants playing and splashing in shallow water, especially the young ones.
Besides splashing near the shore, elephants can also swim in deep water. They are great swimmers and are capable of swimming long distances. When they get tired, they can float to rest, using their trunk as a snorkel.
Biologists say that in the past, elephants swam from India to Sri Lanka. The shortest distance between these two landmasses today is 30 miles.
Related: Are Elephants Predators?
Can baby elephants swim?
A baby elephant is called a calf. Elephants have the longest gestation period among all mammals. Elephant mothers carry their babies for 18 to 22 months before birth. Baby elephant (calf) cant swim from the beginning of their life.
Calves have to learn how to swim, and they do so after several months since birth. Before learning how to swim, their mothers would take care of them near the water. Making sure that their young stay away from the deep water.
Baby elephant swimming and playing in the water is a sight that has to cheer you up.
In the video below, we can see a heartwarming baby elephant playing and swimming in Phuket, Thailand.
Do elephants like to swim?
Playing and sense of humor are often thought to be unique to humans. Nowadays we know other animal species that engage in play and games. Elephants are surely on the list of most playful species.
Elephant social interactions are combined with play starting at an early age. Play is not only reserved for the young ones. Older elephants also participate in fun activities long in their adulthood.
Of course, playful interactions are most commonly seen among calves. Male calves often engage in wrestling and pushing games, while females like to chase each other through vegetation.
With this in mind, swimming is one of the fun activities that elephants engage in. Water is not only a great way to cool down, but it can also be a fun playground. Elephants enjoy the water, and they like to swim, dive, wash and splash in it.
Can elephants swim underwater?
Elephants usually swim with their face above the surface while their mouths are submerged. While swimming like this, they use their trunk to get air.
If the elephants get tired, they can swim almost fully underwater, just keeping their trunks above the surface. Making them not just good swimmers, but excellent snorkelers.
In calm waters and without external factors, it is almost impossible for an elephant to drown. When they get tired, they can rest by floating and breathing through their trunk.
Unfortunately, bad things can happen, and nature can be cruel. In 2019. six elephants drowned in Thailand’s national park. Raging waters swept a baby elephant, and others drowned trying to save it. (source)
Do Elephants drink water with their trunk?
The elephant trunk is part of their nose and part upper lip. They use it to smell, touch and grab things. The trunk is almost like an elephant’s swiss knife.
The elephant trunk serves many purposes and one of them is drinking.
Elephants will suck water partially up their trunk, and then use it to pour the water down in their mouth. This way, they can take more than 3 gallons of water at once. They can use this water for drinking or showering. The water never goes all the way up the trunk, and they cant drink using the trunk alone.
Due to their size, most people would think that elephants cant swim. This can’t be further from the truth. Elephants are great swimmers, and they love water.
It’s a great way to cool down, and it is fun. Similar to humans, elephants like to engage in fun activities. Swimming is one of them. Their large bodies are a benefit in water because it helps them to float.
Elephants don’t sink easily and if they do decide to dive, they use their trunks to get air when submerged. They use all four legs to swim, and they can stay in the water for hours before getting tired.
Elephants can swim in both deep and shallow, fresh or saltwater.