Can Cottontail Rabbits Swim? [Yes, But Not Without Risk]

HomeBehaviorCan Cottontail Rabbits Swim?

Although cottontail rabbits can swim, it’s not their favorite activity. Cottontail rabbits will swim when they are fleeing from a predator or trying to reach shelter or food. Cottontail rabbits have dense fur, making it difficult to swim for long periods.

Cottontail rabbits are a type of rabbit native to North America. These rabbits are commonly found in fields and woodlands and are known for their distinctive white tails.

While cottontail rabbits are not typically known for their swimming abilities, they will decide to jump in the water if the moment calls for it. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at why cottontail rabbits may choose to swim and the possible dangers they may face when doing so.

Cottontail Rabbits Can Swim – But Do They Enjoy it?

As we mentioned, cottontail rabbits can swim, but that doesn’t mean they enjoy it. In fact, most cottontail rabbits would much rather avoid getting wet if they can help it.

Rabbits Don’t Like Getting Wet

Most Rabbits don’t like getting wet. When a rabbit gets wet, its fur can become matted and it’s difficult for them to stay warm. This can be a real problem for rabbits since they are already susceptible to cold temperatures.

Water Can Cause Extreme Shock

Another reason cottontail rabbits may choose to avoid swimming is that water can cause extreme shock. When a rabbit’s body is suddenly immersed in cold water, it can cause their heart rate to increase, and they may even go into cardiac arrest.

Some Rabbits Enjoy Swimming

While most cottontail rabbits don’t enjoy swimming, there are some exceptions. Some rabbits seem to enjoy the water and willingly jump in and swim around.

Just remember, never force or throw a rabbit into the water. It must be their choice.

How Do Cottontail Rabbits Swim?

Cottontail rabbits paddle with their front legs and use their hind legs to steer. It helps that they have webbed feet, even though the webbed feet are designed for hopping, it still helps with swimming.

How Long Can Cottontail Rabbits Swim?

Cottontail rabbits can swim for short periods, usually no more than five minutes. The issue is that they have dense fur, which starts to weigh them down after a few minutes. It’s kind of like trying to swim while wearing a suit.

Why Would Cottontail Rabbits Choose To Swim?

There are a few reasons cottontail rabbits may choose to swim. The most common reasons are fleeing predators, cooling off, or trying to reach food or shelter.

Fleeing a Predator

One of the most common reasons cottontail rabbits swim is to escape a predator. These rabbits are a common prey animal for many predators, including coyotes, foxes, hawks, and owls.

If a cottontail rabbit is chased by one of these predators, its first instinct is to run. If there’s no way to escape on land, the next best option is to jump into the water and swim to safety.

Cooling Off

Another reason cottontail rabbits may choose to swim is to cool off. These rabbits are very sensitive to heat and can quickly overheat in warm weather.

If a cottontail rabbit starts to overheat, it will often jump into the water to cool down. This is why you’ll often see cottontail rabbits near bodies of water on hot days.

Trying to Reach Food or Shelter

Cottontail rabbits are also known to swim when trying to reach food or shelter. If a cottontail rabbit is on one side of a river and their food or shelter is on the other, they may choose to swim across.

They Enjoy It

As we mentioned, some cottontail rabbits actually enjoy swimming. These rabbits tend to be the exception and not the rule.

Why Most Rabbits Choose To Not Swim (Or Even Get Wet)

While some cottontail rabbits enjoy swimming, most of them would much rather avoid getting wet if they can help it. There are a few reasons for this, including dense fur, fear, and hypothermia.

Dense Fur

One of the biggest reasons cottontail rabbits avoid swimming is their dense fur. This fur is great for keeping them warm in cold weather but also makes it difficult for them to move in water.


Another reason cottontail rabbits may avoid swimming because they are afraid of water. These rabbits have a natural fear of anything they can’t see through. This includes water, which can make them very hesitant to jump in.


Cottontail rabbits are also susceptible to hypothermia. This is because their fur doesn’t dry very fast. If a cottontail rabbit gets wet, it can quickly develop hypothermia which can be deadly.

When Do Cottontail Rabbits Develop The Ability To Swim?

Cottontail rabbits develop the ability to swim at a very young age. Within 1-2 weeks after birth, these rabbits are able to paddle and swim short distances.

Cottontail Rabbits Don’t Love Swimming – But It’s a Great Skill

While most cottontail rabbits don’t enjoy swimming, it’s still a good skill for them to have. This is because it can help them escape predators, cool down in hot weather, and reach food or shelter.

Bryan Moore
Bryan Moore
I am Bryan, owner of I love all animals but find myself especially drawn to rabbits. I have been very lucky to be able to turn my passion into my profession, and I am grateful every day that I get to do what I love. It is my hope that through this website, I can help others learn more about these wonderful creatures and provide them with all the information they need to care for their own rabbit. View my Full Author Page Here

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