BACKGROUND The characteristics of explosion in water are different from those in air and vary in different water depths. It is important to investigate the characteristics and mechanisms of extremity injuries caused by mine blasts in shoals. METHODS A total of ninety New Zealand rabbits were randomly divided into four groups put in different depths of water (land group, midpoint of the thigh in the shoal 1 group, the xiphoid process in the shoal 2 group, and control group). Electric detonators simulating mines were placed under the rabbits' right hindpaw. After detonation, the animals were subjected to morphological examination. RESULTS The lower third of the calf was almost completely destroyed by the mine blast on land, and only the rabbits' feet and ankles were destroyed in shoals. The skeleton, artery and sciatic nerve were injured more seriously in shoals than those on land. CONCLUSION Mine blasts in shoals caused less disruption of the soft tissue than those on land. However, the skeleton was more seriously damaged in shoals since the pressure wave was transmitted with greater intensity and had a stronger shattering effect on the skeleton. Furthermore, the characteristics of extremity injuries varied according to water depths.