You’ve certainly heard the idiom “When pigs fly!” Before, but have you ever heard the expression “when pigs swim!” I’ll reckon you haven’t and that’s because I just made it up.
Mischief aside, it’s a question that almost never comes up, but I think it is time that it did: the one that asks whether or not pigs can swim. Today, we get to the truth. Can a regular farm pig actually swim?
Yes, regular farm pigs can typically swim. Most breeds are decent swimmers over relatively short distances, but they don’t do well in strong currents and don’t have a ton of endurance. Many pigs actually seem to enjoy swimming when given the opportunity!
Well, simple answer to a simple question. It turns out that pigs can swim. If you have a pond or stream on your property this is something you’ll need to consider because, given a chance, at least some of your pigs will likely take to the water.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there’s more you’ll need to know, so keep reading and we’ll get to the bottom of it.
Do Wild Pigs Swim?
Yes, they do. Wild pigs actually tend to be pretty prolific swimmers, and will hop in a stream or try to cross a narrow river to get to the other side with a little provocation. They’ll do this:
- ✅ to find food,
- ✅ to escape predators,
- ✅ or to find mates.
There are even some wild pigs living on island chains in the Caribbean that have been known to swim from island to (nearby) island, or from the beach out to a sandbar. Some of them are known to swim up to fishermen out on the water for snacks!
Can Domestic, Farm-raised Pigs Swim Well?
It makes sense that wild pigs will be able to swim pretty good, but can our domestic pigs on the homestead do the same?
Surprisingly enough, yes, most domestic breeds still tend to be pretty solid swimmers. They are fairly fast in calm water and can definitely get where they need to go and maneuver around obstacles.
But the major challenge for pigs when they’re swimming is that they don’t have a lot of endurance, and most of them, contrary to what you’d think, don’t float too well, so when they run out of steam, they’re in danger of drowning if they can’t touch the bottom.
Do Pigs Need to Learn to Swim?
No, they do not. Pigs are like the vast majority of mammals out there in that they’re born with an innate instinct for swimming.
This is, of course, critical for self-preservation if they should get caught in a flood, accidentally find themselves in the water, or be forced to take to the water for whatever reason.
Many of them, especially adults that were never exposed to the water early on in life, will show considerable trepidation before entering the water but usually come around to swimming quite quickly.
Do Pigs Like Swimming?
In my experience, most do. Some really love being in the water, and of course there are a few scaredy cats that will avoid the water at all costs.
As a rule, you really don’t have to worry about a water-shy pig even if you have a pond or stream around, but if you’ve got ones that are known swimmers, you’ll need to institute protective measures to keep them out if you want to avoid accidents- or keep them from getting away!
Why Would Pigs Enter the Water?
We’ve already talked about a few reasons why pigs would enter the water. In the wild, and in less likely circumstances for domestic pigs, they’ll swim to cross a lake, river or stream to get to the other side and find food, mates or safety.
But specifically for our domestic porkers, it’s hardly out of the question that they might enter the water simply out of a sense of curiosity or fun, and they will definitely do it given the opportunity on hot days.
Most pigs don’t handle intense heat very well, especially if they are quite heavy, so a cool dip in the water will be a welcome respite for them.
Is Swimming Dangerous for Pigs?
It can be. The universal danger associated with swimming is drowning, naturally. All pigs are at risk of drowning in bad conditions, in strong currents or if, for whatever reason, they cannot touch the bottom when in the water.
Even in a calm body of water if they cannot figure a way out, they will be in big trouble and soon. When pigs get exhausted, that’s pretty much it; they sink.
Another major risk factor for pigs in the water is hypothermia. Pigs don’t withstand cold weather as good as most people think.
Although they tend to be very fatty, they aren’t walruses and that blubber isn’t terribly insulated. Cold water will rapidly sap the body heat of a pig, and when they get out even a mild breeze will quickly chill them.
A dunk in cold water combined with cold air temperatures can mean certain death.
And if you’re dealing with rising water levels, tides or rapid currents, or just a flood from heavy precipitation, they can easily be carried away by the water.
Is it Safe for Pigs to Swim in Cold Weather?
I strongly advise against it. Even if they’ve got a warm shelter to retreat to, pigs are simply too vulnerable to hypothermia if they get wet. It’s especially likely if the water is very cold.
Even water-loving ones tend to be quite cautious of the water when the weather turns chilly, and with good reason.
If, for whatever reason, you’ve got a pig that has entered the water or fallen in during cold weather, and they are able to get themselves out, you must drive them off and warm them up as quickly as possible.
A good warm blanket or even a heated one set on low along with some warm water packs and a sheltered, warm place to lie down we’ll probably see them recover quickly.
As always, don’t put yourself in any danger trying to rescue a pig that’s in the water or out of the water. Their life is not worth your own.
How Far Can a Pig Reasonably Swim?
There have not been many legitimate studies or even good anecdotal observations concerning how far pigs can reliably swim and under what conditions. The rule of thumb is that you can count on them to be pretty good swimmers over short distances in calm conditions.
However, there are multiple trustworthy accounts out there asserting that some pigs are capable of swimming about a mile at least in good conditions, so they can go further than you think!
Are Some Pig Breeds Better at Swimming than Others?
Yes, some pigs have a genuine knack for swimming. Potbelly pigs are somewhat famous for being swift and sure swimmers despite their rotund looks. Most owners suspect this is due to the additional buoyancy that those big bellies provide.
The English Berkshire pig is also surprisingly athletic and a capable swimmer despite its short legs.
What are Some Pig Breeds that Are Known Bad Swimmers?
As you’d expect, not all pig breeds do great in the water, even in ideal conditions. One somewhat notorious example is the Gloucestershire Old Spot, a dense and heavy breed that is known to shy well away from any deep water. They tend to sink like stones when they do go in!
The Important Question: Can Your Pig Get in the Pool with You?
For some of us, our pigs are pets and not money-makers. If you have a pet porker that you get along with famously, the question that is bound to be on your mind is whether or not you can bring them into the pool with you.
I’m happy to report that you can, but there are many caveats. Not all off them are like those from the Bahamas video I showed you earlier!
What are Some Issues with Putting Pigs in a Pool?
For starters, unless you know that your pet is a very strong swimmer and happy to be in the water.
I highly recommend you only place them in a pool that’s shallow enough where they can safely stand on the bottom. At the very least, you should have a wide and stable ramp that will allow them to clamber out of the water assuming they can’t touch the bottom.
You also need to be able to get your pig in and out of the water safely at all times. Trying to lift a heavy pig into an above-ground pool is probably going to get you hurt, the pig injured and probably damage the pool in the bargain.
Below-ground pools are much easier to enter and exit, but also notorious for letting animals as well as people fall in accidentally.
Pool chemicals are another concern, as chlorine is very drying and harsh on a pig’s skin although levels that are safe for people are unlikely to cause it any serious harm.
Never let your animal enter any pool or other body of water that is undergoing chemical treatment for algae, bacteria and other contaminants.
Use common sense and plenty of caution, and a pet pig can safely hop in the pool with you for short periods of time.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.