Can Goats Swim? What Breeds Are the Best at Swimming?

Some breeds of goat are better swimmers than others! In this article, we’ll take a look at what breeds of goats are the best swimmers and why. We’ll also discuss whether or not goats like water and what you can do if your goat falls into a body of water.

Can Goats Swim: Everything You Need to Know 

Have you ever wondered: can goats swim? Goats are renowned for their phenomenal climbing abilities – after all, we all know about those incredible wild mountain goats that seem to be able to balance precariously on the edge of a cliff! However, it’s often not clear whether this incredible dexterity can also apply to goats once they hit the water, which is why we’ve outlined some of the key things you should know about whether goats can swim and, if so, how can you teach your goats to swim as well? 

Swimming Goats – Can Goats Swim Like Other Mammals? 

Before we go any further with today’s guide, the first question we should consider here is simple: if given the opportunity (or forced), can goats swim like other mammals? Well, yes.

In fact, when we consider wild goats, in particular, it’s not impossible to find them in the process of crossing rivers and lakes in search of more nutritious grazing and foraging opportunities. This is largely due to survival instincts, with swimming being a critical aspect of surviving and thriving in tough and unforgiving terrains that are common for many feral, wild goat species.

However, the answer to “can goats swim” may be a little less unclear when it comes to a domesticated goat. Generally speaking, we do our utmost to protect our goats from the dangers of the world, and this includes the risk of them getting carried away while crossing water. As such, many a domesticated goat have lost their natural ability to swim strongly over time.

Moreover, certain breeds, such as high-performance dairy goats and high-producing cashmere or angora goats, might be at a disadvantage for swimming. This is since their lack of muscularity and/or heavy coats could make swimming especially difficult for them, especially in faster-moving waters. 

Goats are not Traditionally Fans of Water 

Do goats like water? If you ask almost any goat keeper this question, the answer will probably be a firm “no.” Since goats do not have lanolin in their coats like sheep fleeces, they are not waterproof; this means they rapidly get chilled when wet and cold, which could put them at risk of illness. However, while most goats generally do not like water, some breeds are able to handle being wet more than others. 

Swimming Lessons

If you have pet goats, we’d recommend against attempting to teach them to swim since many domesticated goats can panic when exposed to water. However, if you have to teach your young goats to swim for their safety, we’d recommend ensuring you have strong harnesses on them and taking every precaution so that there is no risk to the goat while learning. 

Starting with shallow water may be the best approach here to acclimatize the goat to be in water; then, you could increase the depth to gradually help kickstart their natural instincts to swim and paddle. However, if your goat begins panicking, do not push them. This is especially critical if you have myotonic goats who can faint when stressed; doing so could cause them to inhale a large amount of water, so we strongly recommend against teaching a myotonic goat to swim especially.

The Goats Most Likely to Be OK With Water 

If you’re planning on keeping goats on pasture that requires them to cross water and swim, you might do best with animals that have stronger muscles – such as a meat-type breed – and less fur. 

Heavy coats on breeds such as golden guernseys, cashmeres, angoras, and the like may weigh your goat when wet and heavy, which could make swimming harder; meanwhile, dairy goats, especially those in production, may have reduced muscle strength and so may struggle to swim for long periods of time. And, as already mentioned, myotonic goats risk fainting if they become panicked, which could cause severe aspiration pneumonia and water inhalation – a very dangerous condition indeed.

However, any compromised goat, such as those who are obese, underweight, young, or small could be at greater risk. Always assess this carefully before trying to ask your goats to swim, as not every goat will necessarily be able to do so. You should always take precautions to ensure you have a means of rescuing the goat if something should go wrong.

Final Thoughts 

Whether you’re a goat owner or simply someone who loves goats yourself, there’s so much to learn about these incredible animals! However, one curious trait of most domestic goats is that they often truly hate water – and as such, you’ll very rarely find a goat swimming happily of its own accord. 

With that being said, goats can swim in the water. In fact, a small number may even enjoy it (though most domesticated goats do not like water). And while they might not be as graceful in the water as they are when scaling cliffs (or, for most of us as goat keepers, attempting to clamber over the edges of pens!), they can be taught to swim if it’s important, such as for goatkeepers who know that their fields may be prone to flooding. 

FAQ’s about Goats and Swimming

Charlotte Riggs

A passionate owner and breeder of Boer Goats, Charlotte is ensconced in daily goat farm life at Himmon Boer Goats in the UK. A member of the British Boer Goat Society, she spends her spare time also involved with goats. You could say, and she would admit, she is somewhat obsessed!

Himmon Boer Goats – Dorset

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