The best swimmers in the Animal Kingdom are undoubtedly those living in the ocean. Fish swim continuously for their entire lives—it seems incredible to us that some animals never stop moving! The top speeds of those who live permanently in the water are astounding, but there are some land animals who are just as impressive.

Here is a list of the greatest animal kingdom swimmers—and a look at how humans stack up!

Animal Swim - sea turtle

The Fastest Animal on Earth

Sailfish and orcas are the fastest swimmers on earth. Sailfish is number one if you factor in their leaps out of the water into the air. They can reach speeds of up to 68 miles an hour. Orcas swim at speeds of up to 34.5 miles per hour.

The two records at the Olympics for the men’s and women’s 200-meter freestyle swimming are held by Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt. Their times are 1:42 and 1:53 respectively. A sailfish can swim 200 meters in 10 seconds and an orca can swim 200 meters in 13 seconds. In other words, the sailfish will have covered more than 2800 meters in the time it takes Michael Phelps to complete just 200 meters!

Polar bear swimming

Land Dwellers Who Swim

Technically, along with humans, land animals don’t need to know how to swim, but some animals are born with the ability.  Whether they have developed this as a way to expand their sources for food or they simply swim for pleasure, here are a few animal species who are surprisingly good swimmers, if not quite so fast as an orca or sailfish.


Slots are one of the slowest moving animals on land, but they move quite well in the water. In fact, they can move three times as fast when swimming than they can on land.


Because of their large size, you might not think elephants would function well in the water, but consider this: they have a natural snorkel! They can almost completely submerge their bodies to cool off or for traversing a body of water and still breathe through their trunk. Their powerful legs allow them to swim for long distances.


Hippos spend many hours a day completely submerged in water. They are great swimmers and their heads are built for almost total submersion since their nostrils and eyes are on top of their heads. They can still keep a lookout and breathe while cooling off in the water. Because of their massive size, they don’t always need to swim to cross a river, but they are more than capable when the need arises. They also have a great lung capacity, allowing them to dive underwater for up to five minutes.


An adult Siberian Tiger can weigh over half a ton, but these animals are still incredible swimmers. Young tigers like to play in the water, but all of them can swim even long distances if it’s required during a hunt. Tigers use water like hippos and humans do— to cool off in the heat of the day.

Elephant swimming underwater

Human Swimmers

Human beings likely evolved from sea creatures, so maybe that explains our desire to return to the water. While we won’t ever be as fast as the sailfish, and swimming may not be instinctive to us as it is to the sloth, there are still some fascinating facts about the human race’s history with swimming.

  • While training for swimming meets during the season, the average high school swimmer will swim over a million strokes.
  • In 2014, the American Red Cross reported that only half of Americans know how to swim.
  • Humans use nearly every muscle in their bodies to swim.
  • Swimmers sweat in the pool just as much as athletes who are competing in events outside of the water.

At Born to Swim we want to give swimmers every advantage in the water. We specialize in swim gear to help swimmers gain strength and speed. Because our gear is made by swimmers for swimmers, we use fun colors and patterns, to make your gear as much fun as your sport. Visit our website today to check out our swim caps, goggles, flippers, and more.

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