Can Donkeys Swim? Training Tips for Donkey Swimming

Donkey’s swimming, This question used to come to my mind whenever I tried to convince myself that winter is going fast and soon I and my horse would go swimming again. 

I have been swimming with my horse for a long time so I do know how they behave in the water and what one needs to be careful with. If you are interested to know everything about swimming with horses, give my previous “Can horse swim?” article a read.

Coming back to the point, I found myself curious to know whether like a few four-legged animals can donkey swim as well.

I gave it thorough research to find the answer. To my surprise, they can. Since I share my experience, knowledge about horses and their identical animals here so I decided to dedicate my recent article to this subject.

In this article today we would be discussing, can donkeys swim, if they can, how do they do it, whether they like it or not, how can you take them to swim, and cautions of swimming with a donkey(if any).

As per the tradition, starting with the most Googled question first as no question, even if it’s stupid or innocent, deserves going unanswered.

Can donkeys swim?

Can donkeys swim? Yes, donkeys can swim. Donkeys swim quite well but not as great as mules. Mules are excellent swimmers but donkeys have to get trained to become as excellent swimmers as horses and mules.

They are not excellent but good swimmers

The horses are considered stronger than the subject being discussed and normally they know the art of swimming way better than the donkeys.

The donkeys, that are stronger than the horse of their size can be “good” swimmers but may not be able to beat horses in this race.

Note; Here, I suggest you take the terms “good” and “excellent”  literally.

How long can donkeys swim?

It’s impossible to tell how long a donkey can swim as some donkeys can swim longer whereas the others try to get out of water within 4 to 5 minutes.

The horses have the stamina to swim for at least 10 to 15 minutes whereas the donkeys find it hard to continue this tiring activity after the said duration. 

How do donkeys swim?

Donkeys are naturally buoyant (the ability to float) because of their large air-filled lungs and gas-filled intestine.(Source)

Donkeys swim by using their limbs to paddle across in the water. Maintaining a balance in swimming is important, donkeys maintain their balance in water by moving their legs as if they are trotting on the ground.

Donkeys, mules, and horses, they all naturally know how to swim

Likes their closest relatives mules and horses, this smart, affectionate, and personable little fella does naturally know how to swim.

All these domestic animals may hesitate to get in the water first but as soon as they found themselves in a pound of water they would be using their legs to swim through it.

Do donkeys like to swim?

The appropriate answer to this question would be, they do not like as much as horses do but they also do not hate it either.

Well whether they like swimming or not, it also depends on the first experience.

Donkeys may not like swimming when they are being introduced to water for the first time but eventually, they may start appreciating this kind gesture. 

Swimming is as “tiring” as it is for horses

It doesn’t matter how strong the four-legged animal is, whether they are trained or not, or they do swimming regularly or occasionally, it’s tiring! The natural resistance of the water makes it challenging but enjoyable at the same time.

Unlike horses or mules, they can not swim with a rider

The donkeys, which are admired as “beasts of burden”, are not as strong as the horses and mules. They can not swim with a rider.

Horses and mules, however, can carry a fully grown rider on their backs while swimming.

Donkeys are not normally encouraged to swim

Horses are encouraged and even trained for swimming mules and donkeys are never bothered enough to be taken for swimming.

The reason can be they are either always booked for their jobs or quite a few people know that donkeys and mules can also swim.

If they would have been encouraged and applauded for swimming they might have become excellent swimmers.

donkey swimming

Image Source Broncs and Donks channel

Swimming is not that safe for donkeys

Swimming sounds okay but unfortunately, donkeys are desert animals so they do not have a double-layered coat.

Staying wet for a longer time in the not-so-favorable season is not healthy for donkeys.

They can catch ” equine influenza” from staying in the water or not getting a chance to overcome the effects of swimming. 

Now that, you know that donkeys can swim but they are not as good at swimming as horses. Donkeys are not “really” fond of water or swimming and they naturally try to stay away from water as long as it’s possible. 

The answer to the question,” Do they like swimming or not?” Is that it depends on the first experience.

If the first experience with water is not horrifying they may develop a liking for this recreational activity.

Like horses, the natural resistance of water is tiring for donkeys as well so they can not swim for more than four to five minutes.

Donkeys can catch equine influenza from staying in water as they do not have a double-layered coat. Donkeys and horses naturally know how to swim but they still need to be introduced to the water so it does require training. 

A lot of you might have been reading this article to get a “yes” to take your pet donkey swimming. It wouldn’t be fair to deprive you of the important information regarding this topic. So, as you have got a yes for swimming, let’s move ahead and discuss how you can safely introduce them to water.

How to train your donkey for swimming?

The first that you need to be clear is, donkeys know the art of swimming already so they need not be taken to any professional swimming classes at all. You have to be the trainer!

Donkeys are known for their stubbornness but their sense of preservation is developed to the point that they won’t get themselves involved in something that can harm them.

Water is also something they see as a “threat”,  so you should know that they won’t be going in easily. They need a gentle push. Here’s what you can do to make it easy for them to swim

Take them to beaches quite often

Before you “actually” push them to swim you must have to take them to beaches with you quite often.

It would help them in overcoming the fear of the new environment as they spend most of their lives running or trotting on the roads or hilly areas. Beaches, water, and sand are all just new to them.

Let their feet get wet

Allow them to play with water, let their feet get wet, let them get used to being wet first before you take a huge step to push them in.

Once they are used to it, they would not mind going forward to swim. 

Listen to them, be gentle

When you would “actually” try to take them in water for swimming the donkey may refuse once or twice. Listen to them and be gentle. Try again the next day until it stops refusing. 

Cautions while swimming with donkeys

Do not get in deep waters

Remember! Donkeys are not as great at swimming as horses so taking them in deep waters would be a big mistake.

Taking donkeys that are already stubborn, in deep water can invite a lot of trouble especially if you are not professionally trained to handle such cases.

Do not go alone

Since you are bringing a huge change in your pet’s lifestyle, make sure that you are not alone with a donkey in water. Take someone with you for your pet’s and your safety.

Do not force to swim more than four to five minutes

Swimming is tiring for humans and four-legged animals. Donkeys have the stamina to swim only for four to five minutes. Do not push to swim more what if the donkey gives up in the middle of an ocean?

Can donkeys swim with luggage?

Swimming and carrying luggage on his back are two different things. Donkeys can carry luggage on their back by keeping head above water level.

Donkeys are used for carrying luggage in Asian countries. In Pakistan, China, India and Nepal they are used to carry weight on their back.

Most of the people ask about either they can ride on donkey’s back while he is swimming? So that totally depends on the weight carrying capacity of a donkey. According to research donkey can only carry 20% of his body weight while swimming.

It is always risky to ride on a donkey in water. Most of the time they can be uncomfortable and push you down. They like to keep their head out of the water so weight can down them.


Donkeys can swim but they are not powerful swimmers. They are naturally buoyant so they just have to move their legs (as they do when they are trotting on the ground) to keep swimming and maintaining their balance in the water.

Donkeys are afraid of water so their first experience determines whether they like swimming or not. Swimming is as tiring for the donkey as it’s for humans and horses.

To make it a recreational activity for horses, you slowly have to introduce them to the water. To give a good impression of swimming, let them get used to the environment and allow them to get to know the feeling of being wet.

Once, the donkey starts finding water as their second home you are free(not literally but from most of the responsibilities).

More Donkeys Facts

Hi, I am Waqar and active in the horse world since 2012. I have MSc (Hons) in Agriculture from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad. I love to solve equine health care issues and note down in the form of research papers. I have written hundreds of equine health care, accessories, names, and history-related blogs. My equine related work is watering a lot of horse-related magazines and blogs.