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Apologetics Press :: Decisive Designs

No Sweat Off My Back
by Matthew Vanhorn
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Upon first glance, the hippopotamus appears to be about as interesting as a plate of cold spaghetti. It is an immense creature that spends the largest part of its days lying sluggishly in the water. However, the hippopotamus actually is quite an intriguing beast. For example, an “up close and personal” observation of the animal reveals a reddish secretion all over its back and face. The ancient Greeks believed that the hippopotamus was sweating blood. The secretion does resemble blood, but in reality is a mixture of pigments that acts as a type of sunblock—and even as an antibiotic! The combination of the two protects the hippopotamus from the harmful rays of the Sun, and aids in healing.

In fact, the secretion that oozes from the animal’s skin is essential to its survival. The hippopotamus is a nocturnal feeder. It eats as much as it can during the night, in order to avoid the Sun and its heat. When dawn breaks, the hippopotamus rambles to the water where it spends the day resting and digesting. In order to maintain its enormous size, the hippopotamus must consume large amounts of food, even taking a mid-day meal. Thus, they often must expose themselves to the Sun in search of their next snack. Most mammals in the hippopotamus’ predicament are equipped with protective fur, but fur would not suit an animal of the size of a hippopotamus that lives most of its life in the water.

Instead, the hippopotamus possesses a much more complex method of protection. The red secretion that it produces is able to repel ultraviolet rays from the Sun, as well as regulate temperature and discourage the growth of bacteria. In June 2004, Julianna Kettlewell, of the on-line science staff for BBC News, authored a fascinating article titled “Hippo’s ‘Magic’ Sweat Explained,” in which she discussed the work of Professor Kimiko Hashimoto of Kyoto Pharmaceutical University in Japan. Dr. Hashimoto collected and analyzed the hippopotamus’ sweat in order to understand it better, and discovered that the sweat is composed of two pigments—one red (known as hipposudoric acid), and one orange (called norhipposudoric acid). Both pigments function well as Sun block. Plus, hipposudoric acid serves as a good antibiotic, which is extremely important for the hippopotamus because it is a belligerent animal that often is unsuccessful in its confrontations. Wayne Boardman, head of veterinary services at the Zoological Society in London, England, observed that “Hippos are always fighting…they get scratches and bites and cuts and yet they don’t seem to get infections.”

Evolutionists believe that hippopotamuses evolved their clever ooze in response to their environment. But those same evolutionists seem to offer little information as to how hippopotamuses evolved such a mechanism. In speaking of hippos, Ms. Kettlewell noted: “It is no wonder, then, that evolution endowed them with a handy antiseptic.” How convenient. “Evolution endowed them.” Evolution is not equipped to “endow” anything; only an intelligent Creator can “endow.” And evolution is nothing near an intelligent Creator, since it is neither “intelligent” nor a “Creator.” How many generations of hippopotamuses had to die before they “decided” they should evolve their own sun screen? Also, if indeed the hippopotamus were able to evolve its own sun screen, and if this helps make them more “fit to survive,” why have other animals been unable to master this technique?

Many animals are affected by sunburn. Cattle, sheep, and especially pigs suffer from sunburn, but most animals with white fur or pink areas on the body can be afflicted with sunburn, according to veterinarian Marjorie Orr. Why has evolution not “endowed” pigs with specialized sweat glands to fight sunburn? The complex mechanism that the hippopotamus possesses was not conceived in the mind of an ancestral “hippopotamus-like” creature. Such is not a gift that evolution can give. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). The protective “red ooze” of the hippopotamus is yet another example of the decisive design of the Creator we know as God.


Kettlewell, Julianna (2004), “Hippo’s ‘Magic’ Sweat Explained,” BBC News, [On-line], URL:

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