Did you know: Cows can swim!

It happened on a Saturday. After a hike of almost 900 metres in altitude, a group of young adults got together for an after-work beer by the river. They were sitting in their camping chairs after a long hike in the summer heat. They were enjoying the fresh air and gazing meditatively at the rushing river. Moistening their parched throats, two young cows appeared on the other side of the river.

Even as a young person, you learn to give young cows a wide berth. However, as they were on the other side of the river, the young people only observed them casually. Completely unexpectedly, one of the cows entered the water and finally jumped into the deep riverbed with a big splash. Three of the young adults jumped up to watch the spectacle. And sure enough, the young animal swam towards the bank.

An excited, partly anxious feeling spread among those present. It wasn't long before the second cow also jumped into the wet deep with a not-so-small splash. Both young animals made it to the other side of the river. The cows observed the spectators, but then left without any further action. Still surprised by what they had seen, those present realised that the ubiquitous smartphone of this generation had not been pulled out fast enough to document it. The evening passed without any further incidents.

Supra-regional amazement

As a so-called ‘newcomer’, I started a survey the following days. I was astonished to realise that the fact that cows can swim is widely unknown. That's how little we know about the animals in our regions. Except that they provide us with delicious food such as cheese, milk, yoghurt, butter and curd cheese when they are on the mountain pastures. At our market day under the lime tree in Wagrain, you have the opportunity to get to know the regional producers and sample the range of products.

As this topic is so exciting and apparently so unknown, I went in search of information. If you search the internet, you come across a wealth of information. A total surprise: the claim that cows cannot swim due to a missing sphincter muscle (which is why they would supposedly fill up with water and sink) was not only refuted on various websites, but also by my own observations.

In some regions of the world, it may be necessary to allow entire herds to swim through the river or through flood water in order to find other grazing areas, to flee from danger or simply to cool down. In doing so, they steer with their tail and gain additional buoyancy through their lung volume.


In fact, cows are more likely to be water-shy, which is probably why we were all so surprised by their swimming skills and will probably never see them again. Have you also seen cows swimming or observed anything special in the animal world of the Salzburger Sportwelt? We would love to hear your stories (with photos if you like).

You can find another "animal" blog post here.

photo credits: Wagrain-Kleinarl Tourismus