Why can all animals swim in water without learning to swim but humans cannot?

Why can all animals swim in water without learning to swim but humans cannot?

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I had a question since I was a child. I was always curious about the fact that all animals can swim in water. They don't need any training or to learn swimming. But humans need to learn to swim. Why ?

I am a technical person and not in biology after my 10th year in school. Can anybody please shed some light on this question?

While I am not sure I buy your assertion that all mammals know how to swim, I would say that humans are at least as good as dogs when swimming. If you drop a human in water we will instinctively flap around and try too keep our head out of the water in about as elegant a way as a dog. The main problem for humans is panicking. Someone who does not know how to swim is likely to panic and not manage to keep their head out of the water. Remember that humans float in water, if you keep calm you should be able to keep your head above the water line easily enough.

Dogs can't swim as such, they simply do the same motions in the water as they do on land. There is no different action happening, they don't instinctively do a breast stroke.

In addition, human infants actually have a couple of instincts that make them "swim" (source):

The Diving Reflex

The diving reflex, or bradycardic response, means that infants whose heads are submerged in water will naturally hold their breath. Their heart rate will also slow down while they are underwater. This reflex disappears after about six months of age.

The Swimming Reflex

Newborns placed stomach-side down in water will move their arms and legs in a repetitive "swimming" motion. This is known as the swimming reflex. This reflex, too, begins to fade at about the six-month mark.

That is no better and no worse than any other non-aquatic mammal can do. Try dropping a cat in water* and telling me she is a graceful swimmer :).

* Don't, that's not nice.

Unlike Terdon I think that you are generally correct in your assertion that animals can swim whereas humans can't (although I'm sure there are exceptions). However, I think his answer contains the real answer:

Dogs can't swim as such, they simply do the same motions in the water as they do on land. There is no different action happening, they don't instinctively do a breast stroke.

Try making walking motions underwater, see how well they work for you. Whereas for a four legged animal their land based motions function as a passable swimming motion and the shape and weight distribution of their body means they can keep breathing simply by holding their heads up, humans need to learn a new skill in order to swim.

I'd note, however, that a human who has learnt to swim is much better at it than the natural swimming ability of a quadruped.


It's a simple fact, most animals move. Humans (like you) can move because your body is supported by an internal skeleton - that's right, you are just a bag of bones!

All vertebrate animals (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) have internal skeletons. Although they look quite different at first glance, they share some basic characteristics.

Have a look at the skeletons below and compare them to the human skeleton. Can you recognise the skull, the leg bones and the spine in the pelican, frog and tiger?
Click on the pictures to find out more!

So, what does your skeleton do? The bones in your skeleton act as anchors for all your muscles. Muscles work to pull your bones in different directions. Take the muscles in your arm. Like most muscles they work in pairs - as one expands (gets bigger) the other contracts (gets smaller) allowing you to move your arm around the elbow joint. Your skeleton also provides you with support and protection. Imagine the damage you could do to your brain if you didn't have a skull to protect it!

Move your mouse over the pictures to see the skeleton in action.

Not all animals walk and run around as humans do - their skeletons have adapted to different forms of movement. Fish swim, their long flexible backs and strong fins allow them to glide through water easily. Frogs hop, their strong back legs and large feet help them jump. Birds fly, their 'arms' have turned into wings.

Some animals, like insects and crabs, have a completely different type of skeleton from ours - their skeletons are external (on the outside of their bodies). They are called invertebrates because they do not have a backbone made up of vertebrae. Some other invertebrates, like jellyfish, have no skeleton at all!

Can you think of other animals? How do they move?
How do you think their skeletons have changed to allow this movement?
Click on the pictures to find out more!

Return to Mrs Nerg on the Homepage or test your knowledge with her Quiz!

Elephants love water

Elephants love water and are great divers. You will often see an elephant sticking its trunk up for breath and disappearing under water for a considerable amount of time. Baby elephants enjoy playing in water. They will often try to climb on the backs of older and bigger elephants and then splash back in the water. Calves will suck water into their trunks and spray each other playfully. Elephants also love to cool themselves by having a mud bath. They will scoop wet soil from the bottom of a lake or the river and spray it on to their body to get respite from heat.

10 things I learned after swimming with sharks without a cage

Let me make one thing perfectly clear before I get started — I have been afraid of getting attacked by a shark since I moved to Hawaii half a decade ago. What I knew about these ocean predators was what I've seen on television shows and movies, which could be summed up in a single word — terrifying. In an effort to abolish the fear I had, I did a popular cage dive here in Hawaii a few years ago. It had a surprising impact on me. I found that after doing it, I wanted to learn and experience more.

Life happened and I got busy, but at the start of 2018 I made a vow to cross off a big bucket list item — to free dive with sharks naturally — no cage, no chum, just me and them. So, when I traveled to Tahiti a few weeks ago and had the opportunity to do just that three miles off the coast of Moorea with a marine biologist, I jumped at the opportunity and into the water.

Here's what I learned from the harrowing experience and what you should know before you give it a try.

Most of what I knew about sharks is false.

I boarded the Moorea Ocean Adventures boat with marine biologist Matthieu Petit and my first question was " So, are these guys going to eat me for lunch?" He laughed a little bit, but not because it's funny but because he's completely exhausted with trying to dispel the media portrayal of sharks.

"I wish people knew real facts, not the picture of the monster eating humans for breakfast spread by movies and some media or the hysteria following each (very rare) accident that involves sharks." The International Shark Attack File reported that in 2017 there were only 5 fatal shark attacks worldwide .

Sharks are disappearing at an alarming speed.

There is one shark killed every three seconds in the world. "It's one of the biggest issues in the ocean right now," explained Petit. "Sharks are maybe the most important key species living in the oceans and making them disappear could have unknown, but very strong consequences, on a global level." This infographic is beyond eye-opening.

Sharks are not vicious.

I wanted to know why sharks get this bad-guy rap in movies and television shows if they're truly mis-characterized.

"Vicious is a word describing some human behaviors more than animal behaviors, but they are opportunistic," explained Petit. "This is why they have such an important role in the ecosystem. By targeting the weak, sick or injured animals, especially fish, they contribute to the good health of the fish populations and the whole ecosystem [no propagation of the diseases, favoring natural selection,etc]."

Sharks don't want to eat humans.

This is probably the most important fact and I cannot emphasize it enough. Let's take a look at why: Like I learned above, sharks are opportunistic and curious, so they are always exploring their environment, but humans are big. Only a few species [of sharks] are big enough to even consider humans potential prey. "99% of the times they meet a human, they have absolutely no interest in him," said Petit. "There is a particular thing we've noticed — the bigger the shark is, the more shy it is. It is very easy to attract small reef sharks close to the boat and humans, but to attract a big shark, you have to be patient as they escape the boats and the swimmers most of the time."

It's true — sharks are attracted to blood.

But not yours! Let me say it again for the people in the back — sharks do not want to eat humans. Their intention is to prey on animals that are in their natural food chain and, of course, one of the senses they use to do this is smell. "Their senses are incredibly developed," said Petit. But if it's blood you are worried about, perhaps you should turn your attention to what noises you are making. "Sharks rely on their sharpened sense of hearing to detect the sounds of an injured fish from very far away." This sound can be easily replicated by crackling a water bottle beneath the surface of the water, a tactic biologists use to study sharks in different waters and was demonstrated to me by the team. We were able to spot a lone lemon shark this way, which was incredible.

You can look them in the eye.

Sometimes I wonder if I watch too much "Shark Week" on the Discovery Channel, because in my head I just kept repeating "whatever you do, don't make eye contact." In reality, this is next to impossible when they're circling you in the water and to be honest — their eyes look really cool. I asked about it when we surfaced and there's really no reason you can't look them in the eye "Why wouldn't you? In fact, you did it many times and nothing happened, except cohabitation between a human and shark with no aggression on either side."

Swimming at dawn or dusk still isn't a great idea.

For as long as I can remember, I've heard not to swim at dawn or dusk, since that's when sharks are feeding. Because sharks are opportunistic, you're not necessarily going to be attacked, but you'll be putting yourself in a questionable situation without the upper hand.

"Sharks are opportunistic so they will try to have the advantage on their prey," explained Petit. "The lack of visibility [at those times] is a very good advantage to them as they will sense your presence a long time before you do. That said, this is a warning particularly for bull sharks, tiger and great whites. 95% of the sharks species don't care about humans and the time of the day you swim in the ocean."

The shark anatomy is fascinating.

Through the barrage of questions I threw at the team, I learned an incredible amount about the anatomy of sharks, including a cool fact about the reproduction of gray reef sharks.

"Most species of sharks are not suited to breathe correctly if they stop swimming," said Petit. "So during reproduction, gray reef sharks gather in the channels. While they stop to mate, the strong currents continue to bring oxygen into their gills."

You're braver than you think you are.

Swimming with sharks sounds thrilling and exhilarating in theory, but then when it comes down to it and you see those apex predators circling the water you're about to jump into, your stomach just might drop to your knees. Nevertheless, I found myself easing right off the side of our boat and slipping into their world seamlessly given my newfound shark knowledge and comfort level.

One day, sharks might be gone.

Because these graceful, curious creatures are killed so rapidly for sport, fins and more — their population is fragile. If you share the same interest I did in sharks, or desperately want to overcome a misplaced fear, I cannot encourage you enough to forget what you think you know about them and go meet them in the wild with the help of someone who knows what they are doing before they disappear.

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More than half of Americans can't swim well enough to save themselves. Can you?

As the summer season kicks off for Memorial Day, the Red Cross launched a national campaign Tuesday to encourage more Americans to learn now only how to swim but to become stronger swimmers.

“Most Americans can’t swim nearly as well as they believe they can,” said Laura Howe, a Red Cross spokeswoman.

The organization released a new survey that found that while 80 percent of adults claim they could swim, 44 percent of them also admit they would fail a basic test.

“Less than half of Americans can actually do all of the five skills that can potentially save your life in the water," Howe said.

An average of 10 people drown every day. Two of those 10 are children age 14 or younger, according to the Red Cross, citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although four in ten parents of children ages 4-17 reported that their child can perform all five basic swimming skills, more than 90 percent of them acknowledged their child was highly likely to participate in water activities this summer.

The new Red Cross campaign strives to reduce the drowning rate by 50 percent in 50 cities over the next three to five years.

TODAY’s Tamron Hall, 43, said she only recently learned how to swim after experiencing “a complete panic attack in the water” following her previous attempt to learn a year earlier.

”My-sister-in-law, who taught my three nieces and nephews how to swim at a young age, took me out and basically treated me like a 3-year-old and I learned to swim,” she said.

Hall said through her work with the “Make a Splash” initiative, which helps educates communities about water safety, she learned the top reason why people don’t learn how to swim.

“When a parent can’t swim, they’re afraid to put their child in the position of what they see as danger,” she said. “Your instinct as a parent is, if I can’t help my kid, why would I put that child in the situation? So a lot of parents who didn’t learn to swim, don’t teach their children.”

Why don't black Americans swim?

When 15-year-old DeKendrix Warner accidentally stepped into deeper water while wading in the Red River in Shreveport, he panicked.

JaTavious Warner, 17, Takeitha Warner, 13, JaMarcus Warner, 14, Litrelle Stewart, 18, Latevin Stewart, 15, and LaDarius Stewart, 17, rushed to help him and each other.

None of them could swim. All six drowned. DeKendrix was rescued by a passer-by.

Maude Warner, mother of three of the victims, and the other adults present also couldn't swim.

The US has almost 3,500 accidental drownings every year, almost 10 a day.

But according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the fatal drowning rate of African-American children aged five-14 is three times that of white children.

A recent study sponsored by USA Swimming uncovered equally stark statistics.

Just under 70% of African-American children surveyed said they had no or low ability to swim. Low ability merely meant they were able to splash around in the shallow end. A further 12% said they could swim but had "taught themselves".

The study found 58% of Hispanic children had no or low swimming ability. For white children, the figure was only 42%.

"It is an epidemic that is almost going unnoticed," says Sue Anderson, director of programmes and services at USA Swimming.

The swimming body would like all children to be taught to swim.

Parents' responsibility

"We would like it to be like seatbelts and bicycle helmets," says Ms Anderson.

But the situation in the US can vary hugely even within a single state.

Unlike the UK, where learning to swim is enshrined in the national curriculum except in Scotland, the ultimate responsibility in the US often lies with parents.

"I would love to make it a rule like they have in the UK," says Cullen Jones, a gold medallist in the freestyle 100m relay in Beijing, and a spokesman for USA Swimming's Make a Splash campaign.

"It isn't a requirement, it isn't a priority in the US."

Jones's mother took him to swimming lessons after he nearly drowned at a theme park aged five. By eight he was swimming competitively.

The Make a Splash campaign is targeting all non-swimmers and their parents but there is a particular focus on ethnic minority families.

Many black parents are not teaching their children to swim.

Some might assume the fundamental reasons would be lack of money for swimming lessons or living in areas where there were no pools, but the reality is more complex.

"Fear of drowning or fear of injury was really the major variable," says Prof Carol Irwin, a sociologist from the University of Memphis, who led the study for USA Swimming.

Typically, those children who could not swim also had parents who could not swim.

"Parents who don't know how to swim are very likely to pass on not knowing how to swim to their children," says Ms Anderson.

In focus groups for the study, Prof Irwin said many black parents who could not swim evinced sentiments like: "My children are never going to learn to swim because I'm scared they would drown."

The parents' very fear of their children drowning was making that fate more likely.

The major reason behind the problem could lie in the era of segregation says Prof Jeff Wiltse, author of Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America.

"The history of discrimination… has contributed to the drowning and swimming rates," says Prof Wiltse.

In his work he identified two periods of a boom in swimming rates in the US - in the 1920s and 1930s when recreational swimming became popular and the 1950s and 1960s when the idea of swimming as a sport really took off.

The first boom was marked by the construction of about 2,000 new municipal pools across the nation.

"Black Americans were largely and systematically denied access to those pools," he notes.

"Swimming never became a part of African- American recreational culture."

In the northern US that segregation in pools ended in the 1940s and early 1950s, but many white swimmers responded by abandoning the municipal pools and heading off to private clubs in the suburbs where segregation continued to be enforced.

"Municipal pools became a low public priority," he notes.

After the race riots of the 1960s, many cities did start building pools in predominantly black areas, says Prof Wiltse, but there was still a problem. Many of the new pools were small - often only 20 by 40ft (six by 12m) and 3.5ft (1m) deep.

"They didn't really accommodate swimming. They attracted young kids who would stand in them and splash about. There really wasn't an effort to teach African-American children to swim in these pools."

Although there are many poor or working class white children who cannot swim for similar reasons, swimming has gained an image as a "white sport".

"It is [seen as] a country club sport that only very rich kids get to participate in. The swimming pool is [seen as] a very elitist thing to have in your backyard," says Prof Irwin.

Bishop Larry Brandon, of the Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral, knew the Warner family, and is now persuading other pastors and ministers to use their pulpits to promote swimming.

Shreveport has quickly established a new swimming programme in the victims names and there is a drive to challenge misconceptions about swimming.

As well as the fear factor, Prof Irwin's study found that appearance was also a reason for African-Americans avoiding swimming.

Black respondents, far more than white or Hispanic respondents, were sometimes concerned about the effect chlorinated water would have on their hair.

"African-American women, many of them if they go the beauty shop and get their hair fixed they are not going to swim," says Bishop Brandon.

Perhaps the most alarming thing is that the studies suggest that those who cannot swim - like the Warners and Stewarts - often spend time in pools and other swimming sites.

"Kids are going to be by the water, they love being by the water, and that's something that we really need to make a priority," says Jones.

"Here everybody knows how to drive a car. It should also be a rite of passage to learn how to swim."

5 Answers 5

There's no way to answer this question without asking another - where on the Amazon do you intend to swim?

This is the largest river system in the world, with the greatest outflow of any river - so big that it's bigger than the next 6 largest combined! It is generally accepted that it is the second longest. It starts somewhere deep in the Andes in the Mantaro River, which has a very steep gradient - 5 m/km, meaning that it will have rapids/white water, it then descends through a range of river systems into lowland forest and finally out into the Atlantic Ocean. It has a wide range of biomes from untouched forest, to alpine zones, to big cities to a delta.

This means there are a huge range of places that you could potentially swim - how safe each of those is, is very very dependent on where it is. Generally lowland rivers will be relatively safe to swim in (assuming no flooding and a competent swimmer), so long as the swimmer stays aware of hazards in the water - tangling vines/roots, floating or submerged branches/trees, rocks, eddies etc.

Swimming downstream of industrialized cities and high intensity agriculture is relatively risky in terms of infection from bacteria and other pathogens, as well as pollution, but the risks are fairly low still, unless you ingest the water or have open wounds that could get infected.

There are guided tours on the Amazon to see things like the Amazon River Dolphin, some of which apparently will let people swim with them. Based on this, it's probably safe to swim in those areas, but like any river with wild-life there are no guarantees.

If you are worried about wildlife, not very dangerous. Swim with other people and from a boat rather than from shore. Biggest threat is probably drowning. The major threats:

Sting Rays – Purported by Smithsonian Zoo to inflict most injuries to people in Amazonian rivers. Considered docile, but will sting if stepped on as they bury themselves in the sand to hunt for prey. Bacterial infection of wound may led to death. The number of injuries per year is unknown because often unreported or medical attention is sought out well after the fact. This study in the Brazilian Amazon used 84 injuries over a 3 year period. Can be avoided by swimming from a boat, rather than entering water from shore. Haddad Jr, V., Neto, D. G., de Paula Neto, J. B., de Luna Marques, F. P., & Barbaro, K. C. (2004). Freshwater stingrays: study of epidemiologic, clinic and therapeutic aspects based on 84 envenomings in humans and some enzymatic activities of the venom. Toxicon, 43(3), 287-294.

Electric Eels – These snake-like fish stun prey and scare off predators with about 600v shock, which is enough to knock a person unconscious. Again, very few reported interactions with people, as above, they tend to avoid them. They hunt in shallow water, so again, swimming off a boat will reduce your risk of interaction.

Caiman – There are several species of this relative to the alligator in the Amazon. They can range in size from about 1-6m, making most too small to be a real threat to people. The largest species, the black caiman, has been known to (rarely) prey upon humans. People (and this is well-documented) hunt caiman for skins and meat, so they tend to avoid people. Sideleau, B., & Britton, A. R. C. (2012, May). A preliminary analysis of worldwide crocodilian attacks. In Crocodiles: Proceedings of the 21st Working Meeting of the IUCN–SSC Crocodile Specialist Group (pp. 22-25).

Piranha – Most reports of piranha attacks on people are single bites as part of defending young or territories. But they tend to hunt near shore, so again swim from a boat. Haddad Jr, V., & Sazima, I. (2003). Piranha attacks on humans in southeast Brazil: epidemiology, natural history, and clinical treatment, with description of a bite outbreak. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, 14(4), 249-254.

Candiru- This is a parasitic catfish that attaches to the gills of larger fish with spines and feeds on their blood. Although there is no actual evidence of them ever bothering people, urban legends suggest that they are attracted to human urine and will swim up the urethra and use their spines to attach to the bladder. Bauer, I. L. (2013). Candiru—a little fish with bad habits: need travel health professionals worry? A review. Journal of travel medicine, 20(2), 119-124.

Anaconda- There are 4 species of these tropical swimming snakes in the Boa genus. They are mostly active in the evenings and can move quickly in the water, but are slow on land. They also tend to hang out in shallow water to hunt, so again, swimming off a boat is good practice. They are non-venomous and kill their prey by wrapping around them and squeezing, cutting off circulation to the brain, then swallowing prey whole. They are probably physically able to kill humans, but attacks on humans are rare, and there are no substantiated reports of an anaconda killing a person. Rivas, J. A. (1998). Predatory attacks of green anacondas. Eunectes murinus, 157-159.

The danger specifically of piranhas depends on the time of year. Around Manaus the water is high during the rainy season (October to March) and it may be ok to swim (bearing in mind bob1's answer). But during the dry season piranha's, especially in left over pools, may be hungry and dangerous.

Caiman will mostly try to avoid encounters with humans.

I swam in the Amazon river once, if i ever get another opportunity i will bring a mask.

I would just like to point out the one modern report of an attack on a human male by the candiru fish is highly likely to be spurious for a multitude of reasons, not least of which is the impossibility of such an attack from the perspective of simple fluid physics. From the Wikipedia article on the candiru fish:

As God is my witness, I thought all dogs could swim! Who wouldn’t? I mean, they named my beloved “dog paddle” swimming technique after pooches everywhere. So, I just assumed it was a natural instinct that applied to all dogs. But nope, as it turns out that assumption isn’t just incorrect, it’s downright dangerous. You’ve gotta be careful with these sorts of assumptions.

For me, it all changed a few years back when my niece’s Pug, Peanut, did a splashdown in my sister’s backyard pool. At first we thought his cute floundering was just an awkward dog paddle but within seconds we realized it was a genuine struggle and my sister jumped in (fully clothed, no less) to save the little guy. Don’t worry, he’s fine. Yes, it was frightening and a rude awakening.

The truth is that not all breeds can swim well at all. While an initial doggie paddle may look promising, some pooches can run into trouble pretty quickly and should never be anywhere close to deep water. Sad, but true. It’s something that we must all find a way to learn to live.

So how do you identify whether or not your doggo will be a super swimmer? Here are three tips to help identify if your pooch is not a natural paddler: 1) he has a large and heavy chest 2) he has short legs 3) he has a short muzzle (also known as brachycephalic). If your dog has any of those qualities, you should at the very least be reluctant to toss the pup into your pool.

If you would like a more detailed guide to identify pups that should be kept away from water, don’t worry. We’ve got it coming to you right now. Here are the top 10 dog breeds that are just not designed for swimming. Sadly, they will never be the furry Michael Phelps of your backyard. It doesn’t matter how much you want that to happen. It never will.

These little guys are built to be adorable, not to be swimmers. A brachycephalic breed of dog, this tiny pup’s short snout can cause shortness of breath which not only hinders his ability to swim for any length of time but makes it difficult for him to keep his muzzle above water. It’s a sad struggle to watch these pups in water. For flat-faced dogs to be able to keep their nose and mouth above water, they need to tilt their head upwards, causing their back end to tuck under their body and them to sink. They simply can’t hanlde it. So, providing your Pug with a life vest is imperative around pools. (Photo credit: klippel1/Depositphotos)

You wouldn’t guess that Dachshund’s would struggle in water just by looking at them like pugs, but appearances can be deceiving. Although this breed is relatively light-weight and his longer muzzle means he doesn’t run into the same water problems as a Pug or Bulldog, this breed’s short legs means he will never be a strong swimmer and will likely struggle to paddle for any length of time. Unfortunately, swimming is all in the legs and this lil’ pup’s stubby stumps can’t keep him afloat. Water sports should be contained to a sprinkler or a kiddy pool with water no higher than his shoulders. That said, they can even drown if they get tuckered out in shallow water. So always keep a close eye on your little guy when he’s in any amount of water. (Photo credit: vagawi/Flickr)

While this small dog breed doesn’t carry the typical problem traits of non-swimmers with his lighter weight, smaller chest and full muzzle, he can experience challenges related to water play such as chills, arthritis and rheumatism. He is a sensitive little pup who has trouble adapting to the drastic change of environment that comes from plopping into water. To ensure all playtime is safe and fun for this mini pooch, it’s best to stick to dry land with games of fetch and catch. Thankfully there are still plenty of ways to play with this pup without getting wet. (Photo credit: Shek Graham/Flickr)

It’s pretty easy to size up a bulldog as being adverse to water play. This breed ticks all of the obvious non-swimmer boxes. His short muzzle means he is considered a brachycephalic dog. While his barrel chest, large head, and short legs mean that he will never be able to paddle fast enough to support his own weight. In fact many breeders and rescue groups will require a home visit to ensure any family swimming pool is safely fenced before letting your bring home a bulldog. If he is to be near water, pet parents should ensure he is always supervised and wearing a life vest. The good news is that he will look absolutely adorable in his little life vest. So that will be an easy safety requirement to follow. (Photo credit: Annette Shaff/Shutterstock)

Unfortunately everyone’s favourite droopy dog isn’t built for swimming either. While this breed holds a record for possessing the world’s longest ears, they’re sadly not flotation devices and therefore offer no support should this big boy find himself in deep water. In fact, his large head, dense bone structure and disproportionately short legs mean he is incapable of keeping himself afloat for any length of time. Plus those lengthy ears that define the Basset Hound’s unique look can also be prone to waterborne infections. So for many reasons, this natural born tracker would do best as a landlubber. (Photo credit: Grégory Szkudlarek/Flickr)

While we tend to consider larger dogs natural born swimmers, the Chow is an exception to this rule because of his deeper chest and shorter legs. The flatter muzzle can also cause him shortness of breath and his thick heavy coat can easily become waterlogged and weigh him down. Extra caution should be exercised with this breed and for pet parents with a pool or who enjoy water sports, a properly fitted life vest would be a good investment for your Chow. (Photo credit: Whitney H/Flickr)

This sturdy little breed might have a longer muzzle but his dense body, large barrel chest, and short legs ensure that he they never be strong swimmers. While they love the water, it’s best to just let them wade chest-deep if they so desire or fill a kiddy pool during hotter weather and allow them to splash around. If you take them boating, a life vest is a must. They just can’t keep themselves afloat otherwise. (Photo credit: kent/Flickr)

Though his long legs may make him look like swimming would be second nature, this breed runs into the same challenges as Boxers and Pugs: he is considered brachycephalic. His flatter face and shorter muzzle means he will struggle to keep his face and nose above water and may run into shortness of breath if left to swim for too long. Water activities should be kept to a romp on the shore, a run under the sprinkler or some playtime in a kiddy pool. Never a swim. (Photo credit: Tom Wood/Flickr)

While this athletic, spirited dog loves his exercise, his solid and dense muscle mass makes him heavier and not inclined to take up swimming. Add to this a head size and weight that tends to be disproportionate to that of his body and you’ll find that it can be very difficult for him to keep his head above water for any length of time. Best to tire him out on land! (Photo credit: Chris Stickley/Flickr)

Finally, there is no pooch less suited to swimming that the Shih-Tzu. Similar to the Maltese, this little guy can quickly catch a chill and although he may give it his best shot, swimming can be a struggle due to his tiny muzzle and small legs. His fuller coat can also become water-logged while swimming, weighing him down, covering his face, and making breathing difficult. And remember, tiny dogs can become frightened or nervous in open water, making the overall experience unpleasant to say the least. (Photo credit: Elenarts/Depositphoto)

How to Keep Your Dog Safe Whenever He’s Around Water

If your pooch isn’t one that is good at swimming, you will need to take extra precautions to keep him safe whenever he is near a body of water. That’s true whether you are spending time by a lake, at the beach, or in your backyard by your swimming pool. Any of these seemingly tranquil locations can quickly turn into horrifying death traps if your pup is suited to swimming. As mentioned in the intro, accidents can happen when you least expect them. Animals can even slip into pools, which could spell disaster, especially if no one is around to save your companion.

There are many steps that you can take to keep your dog safe around any body of water, especially in a controlled environment like a backyard with a swimming pool. All it takes is a little extra attention and care. You’re a pup parent. That behaviour should come naturally. First off, only let your dog out to play by the pool when someone is there to supervise. You will definitely want someone to be there to jump in and save him if he slips and falls into the water. That’s just common sense.

Adding a protective fence around your pool is another way to keep your dog away from the dangerous water. It’s pretty common as well. Just as you would use a fence to keep kids away from a pool, this strategy can work for dogs too. You can even place a cover over your pool whenever it isn’t being used. Just make sure that you choose one that allows rainwater to drain through the cover into the water underneath, as this is a good way to ensure large, hazardous puddles don’t form on the top of it.

Another step that you can take involves adding ramps or stairs to the pool so that, if your dog does fall in, he might have a chance to make his way out on his own. This doesn’t remove the requirement of having someone there to supervise him while he’s outside by the pool, but these tools can serve as additional safeguards. It at least provides you with a little peace of mind, even if it’s not a perfect solution.

Finally, it’s worth investing in a doggy lifejacket if you have a pup who isn’t suited to swimming, yet can’t resist the water. Whenever your dog is near the water, whether at home or in the great outdoors, put a canine lifejacket on him. A high-quality and well-fitting lifejacket can help him stay afloat in the event that he accidentally ends up in the water and can’t swim. (Note: even dogs that can swim could benefit from wearing a lifejacket, just in case anything goes wrong or if they get tired, for example.)

Finally, you should also consider taking a canine first aid class, or simply doing some research online, to learn how to perform CPR on your dog. That way, if an emergency were to occur, you’ll have the vital knowledge that will allow you to act fast. You will know how to quickly evaluate your pet’s breathing and pulse and you’ll know how to position your dog correctly to perform compressions and respiration without hurting him. Having this basic emergency safety knowledge could make a huge difference in any life or death scenario. It’s all to easy for these sorts of situations to spiral out of control, so a little research can go a long way in any emergency. Take the responsibility seriously. Sure, you may never need to use any of this knowledge, but this is very much a “better safe than sorry” situation.

Know Your Dog’s Breed and Needs

Ultimately, it’s important to know what your dog’s limitations are, based on his breed. While some pooches are natural-born swimmers, others have a lot of trouble once they’re in the water. That’s why having this information will allow you to take the appropriate steps towards keeping your pet safe by the water. Even if your dog is on this list and unsuited to swimming, that doesn’t mean that the pup won’t love the water and desperately try to swim whenever he has the opportunity. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that will happen. So, it’s up to you as a proud and protective dog parent to be ready to jump in and take care of his safety. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to do so and by simply seeking out this article, you’ve already taken your first steps.

Why are humans or our recent ancestors unable to swim without being taught, while most other animals can?

It has always bugged me. Did it occur at the point when we became bipedal (perhaps the natural mechanics we had were not transferable to a bipedal animal)?

Infants up to 6 months or so can swim without being taught.

Is this true? Are there any theories on why we lose that ability? Lack of experience if we don't stick with it?

Define swimming? Most people [citation needed] can "doggy paddle" without further instruction. It's not as if other animals are able to do back stroke or anything, right?

Edit: fixed idiot spelling mistake.

It seems like I hear of a lot of kids and even adults drowning from falling off of a boat or into a pool, or in an otherwise easily survivable situation if you could even stay afloat.

However they need to know they can do it and not just panic and inhale water as they sink.

Consider how most mammals naturally float, in a dead-mans-float sort of position with the lungs (and therefore the back) as high up as they can be.

Now consider how this situation is for a quadruped vs a human. To breathe, a quadruped simply has to lift it's neck backwards a bit and get it's nose out of the water. This is easy since the head is already parallel with the surface of the water. A human's head, however, is facing down. To breath the human has to move his whole body into a new, less stable position (either roll over onto his back or rotate into the upright position)

That said, I think most humans could probably swim without being taught by someone else, it's just that mortality rates would be higher

Could Dinosaurs Swim?

Whether a team of dinosaurs could win an Olympic relay race is up for debate. But they wouldn't be afraid to jump in the water.

All dinosaurs could swim, said Dave Gillette, curator of paleontology at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff.

"They might not have been graceful, but they could swim nevertheless. Think of elephants, or horses they swim quite well even though their bodies do not look like the bodies of swimmers at all."

Dinosaurs were motivated to swim by the same instincts that send a beaver or a duck to take a dip.

"They might swim to find food in water, to hide from predators, to cool off, to go from one bank or another, or even to swim across a river or a bay to a barrier island, and all the other reasons that an animal would decide to swim," Gillette said.

Like all reptiles, dinosaurs breathed air and had to take regular breaths, whether they were in or out of the water.

"Dinosaurs were surely just as adept at swimming, and just as talented at taking in sufficient air to continue breathing," Gillette said. "This all means that they had to be buoyant, too, so they could stay close to the surface of the water, rather than sinking and drowning."

Although most dinosaurs spent a majority of their time roaming the land, some dinosaurs, such as Spinosaurus and Baryonyx, were likely amphibious. Both of these species were as large as Tyrannosaurus rex and had an anatomy similar to that of crocodiles . They also had huge skeletal spines on their backbone that looked like a sail, but Gillette said those spines were covered with muscle and tendons and skin, and could not have functioned as an actual wind-catching sail.

Other than skeletons of swimmers, scientists have also discovered tracks of wading dinosaurs.

Tracks of swimmers

"Some trackways indicate that dinosaurs 'poled' their way around in shallow water, like a boatman use a pole to push a boat," said Gillette. "Or, like the way humans push off and glide, then sink a little and then push off again, and glide. "

For example, in 2007 paleontologists from the University of Nantes in France came across S-shaped prints on the bottom of what was once a lake in the Cameros Basin in Spain. The unusual tracks suggest the animal's body was supported by water when it scratched the lakebed.

In 2005 in Wyoming, Debra Mickelson from the University of Colorado at Boulder discovered dinosaur tracks in what was an ancient sea floor. The footprints were left behind 165 million years ago by an ostrich-sized dinosaur .

"The swimming dinosaur had four limbs and it walked on its hind legs, which each had three toes," Mickelson said. "The tracks show how it became more buoyant as it waded into deeper water the full footprints gradually become half-footprints and then only claw marks."

Dinosaurs weren't the only creatures showing off their swim strokes during the Mesozoic period. Many reptiles living during the same time as dinosaurs were restricted to living in the sea.

"Plesiosaurs, mosasaurs and sea turtles are all non-dinosaurian reptiles that lived the sea in the Mesozoic and perhaps only came to land to lay eggs," Gillette said.


  1. Rayburn

    your sentence, just the charm

  2. Fytch

    It is extinguished

  3. Andrew

    the graceful phrase

  4. Roscoe

    It is known to a god!

  5. Mudada

    I think it is the serious mistake.

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