Can Foxes Swim? When, How and Why Foxes Swim! and Which Ones

We all know how agile foxes can be, we see them climbing walls, fences, jumping high, and all kinds of acrobatics. But can they swim? And if so then how good are they?

In this article, we’re going to cover the swimming ability of foxes. How fast they can swim and when and where they would swim.

But first, here’s the quick answer, then we’ll dive into more detail about the swimming ability of Foxes.

Do foxes swim? Foxes are much like cats, a fox can swim well, and does swim. However, foxes generally avoid water and prefer not to get wet. They shelter from the rain where they can. Being wet inhibits their fur’s ability to retain warmth, removes oil from their fur, and adds weight making them less agile.

But, foxes are not afraid of swimming and are, in fact, good swimmers. There are plenty of times when a fox will swim, whether in seawater or freshwater.

When will a fox swim

There are a few main occasions when a fox will make the decision to swim, a fox has been known to swim for fun, but this is rare unless it’s a very hot day and they want to cool off or if they’re playing. But that aside, let’s take a look at the occasions when they will need to swim.

A fox swims to get to food

A fox will enter the water if it believes that there’s food available, either on the opposite bank or shore or within the water itself – a fox is an opportunist hunter, so if it can find food such as fish or ducks in the water and it can get to them, then it will go for it, provided it doesn’t endanger itself in the process.

fox hunting for fish
fox hunting for fish

image source: Creative Commons Zero – CC0

Food is a key driver for wild animals, they will often go through water and other terrains to reach it – depending on how desperate they are. If there’s an abundance of food available without entering the water, then there’s simply no need.

A fox swims for self-preservation

Like most animals, a fox will weigh up any risks before making a decision. If it came down to it, then a fox would obviously rather make a swim for it than get caught by a predator. So a fox would swim in order to save their own life – having weighed up the options. There have been occasions when a fox has been seen swimming in the sea to try to reach land.

Territorial reach

The only other occasion a fox might be pushed to swim is to do with territory. Their territories mainly stay within natural boundaries, however, if the fox’s territory crossed a stream river they would swim across it. They have been known to swim across to different islands to get to a fresh food source.

All these occasions also depend on the climate situation. In cold weather, you’re less likely to find a fox swimming unless their life depended on it, for survival purposes.

How do foxes swim?

Foxes swim like dogs, and they swim well. They will paddle in forward-motion circles with their paws. It’s slow progress but they are good swimmers, swimming at around 2-3 miles per hour. They keep their muzzles out of the water and also their tails remain straight and just out the water surface.

As a fox generally avoids swimming, you’re unlikely to find one swimming near your local lake. They will always look to traverse bodies of water, or even find some other route. They will even avoid large puddles rather than get their feet wet.

Do all foxes swim?

All fox species have the ability to swim, this includes the gray fox and the red fox. The least likely candidate to swim would be the Arctic Fox – but they still can are still good swimmers.

The reason for them being the least likely fox to swim – even though they live in an environment based on icy snows and frozen water.

But by getting wet, rain-soaked fur would be hugely impacted by the icy cold weather in the more extreme times of winter.

Their resistance to the cold and damp climates in the frozen north would be severely compromised. Therefore they’re less likely to risk it than other foxes in milder climates.

Do foxes swim underwater?

When swimming, foxes – similar to dogs, will keep their faces out of the water. If foxes do dive underwater then this has never been captured.

Learning resources

If you wish to learn more about these most fascinating and adaptable creatures, at home, at school or homeschooling, then explore the resources we’ve found on amazon below…

Exploring the World of Foxes

Flows with story-like content which describes the various fox species, habitat, facts, and what it’s like to be a fox pup!

Baby Foxes

Great for 1st to 2nd graders, this book introduces foxes and their young, it describes their physical characteristics, habitat, life cycle, their caring behavior to their young, and differences from other similar animals.

Video Resources

Video footage of a fox swimming…

Urban foxes can divide opinions, ranging from those who see them as pests, to those who have them as pets. This documentary shows the two sides of love and hate for urban foxes!

To finish

We hope this has been useful in understanding whether foxes can swim, which ones, where they will win, and the reasons behind it. If you have any images or footage of foxes swimming then do let us know.

This content has been checked and verified by a qualified veterinary practitioner. The article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.


A Certified Ecologist and an Entomologist, Michael has been interested in all aspects of Nature for many years. It's only now he's decided, along with his partner Fran, to begin documenting what he knows.

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