Do Hippo Moms Really Give Their Babies Pink Milk?

Kinda like a strawberry milkshake ... 🍓

There’s a certain internet rumor that hippo moms produce pink milk — kind of like a strawberry milkshake. But as it turns out, hippo babies are drinking white milk just like the rest of the world. So, where does the “pink milk” theory come from? It actually has to do with “sunscreen.”

Hippos are some of the most unique animals around, and one thing that makes them so special is their ability to shield themselves from the sun. But not in the way you’d expect.

A mother hippo wades in water with her baby.
Pexels/Lyle Simes

Found in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, hippos can live 40 to 50 years and weigh anywhere from 2,900 to 4,000 pounds. And, because where they live is so hot, they spend up to 16 hours a day floating in rivers and pools to fend off the summer sun.

But even with all that time spent catching rays, hippos don’t sunburn. Their bodies make something specific only to hippos that solves a few pesky skin problems.

A hippo enjoys time in the sun.
Pexels/Edwin Lopez

Though hippos don’t actually have glands that produce sweat, they secrete an oily substance like mucus that protects them from the sun. Nicknamed "blood sweat,” the “sweat” appears pinkish-red at first.

This unique concoction stays on for hours, moisturizes the hippo’s dry, sensitive skin, repels water and prevents sunburn. With the help of “blood sweat,” hippos can wade in water, feeding on the grass and hanging out with their hippo friends without risk of damaging their skin.

And when this red “sunscreen” on their skin mixes with their white milk, it turns the milk — you guessed it — pink.

Hippos lay out in the sun.
Pexels/Anthony Trivet

So, not only are these giant cuties natural-born water babies — but their unique “sweat” makes them cooler than cool (literally).

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