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Are pink hippos rare?

Pink hippos are exceptionally rare creatures. In fact, to date there has never been a confirmed sighting of a true pink hippo in the wild. This is because hippos simply do not come in the color pink. So why do people sometimes talk about pink hippos as if they really exist?

What is a Pink Hippo?

A “pink hippo” is a term used as a metaphor for something that is highly unusual, extremely rare, or even imaginary. It refers to the idea that if you were ever to see a vivid pink hippopotamus, it would be such an unusual occurrence that you would really have to question whether it was real. Hippos are large semi-aquatic mammals that inhabit rivers, lakes, and swamps in sub-Saharan Africa. They have grayish-purple skin and are never found naturally in shades of pink. So a pink hippo is an imaginary creature used to represent something exceptionally rare or highly improbable.

Where Did the Expression Originate?

The origins of the “pink hippo” metaphor are obscure, but it seems to have come into broader use in the late 20th century. Business and psychology books from the 1980s and 1990s sometimes used the pink hippo as an example of something highly uncommon. It may have originated as a twist on the more common expression “white elephant,” used to mean an expensive but useless possession. A pink hippo moves the rarity notion into the realm of fantasy and impossibility.

Examples of Using “Pink Hippo” as a Metaphor

Here are some examples of how the “pink hippo” metaphor is used:

  • Seeing a pink hippo walking down the street would be incredibly shocking and bizarre. (To represent an extremely far-fetched occurrence)
  • The chances of selecting the right lottery numbers are about as likely as spotting a pink hippo. (To represent extraordinary unlikelihood)
  • The software update caused a pink hippo error that made the program crash. (To humorously refer to an unknown or fanciful computer error)
  • For most companies seeking rapid growth, achieving that is about as rare as catching sight of a pink hippo. (To represent an enormously difficult challenge)

As these examples show, the pink hippo serves as a wildly improbable imaginary scenario used for comparison to things that are similarly rare or close to impossible. It adds an element of humor or whimsy when referring to long-shot odds and unlikely events.

Cultural References to Pink Hippos

While pink hippos do not exist in nature, the concept has made its way into books, cartoons, toys, and more. Some cultural references include:

  • The board book Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink by Victoria Kann features a fantasy sequence with a pink hippo.
  • A viral video titled “Pink Hippo” animates the improbable concept.
  • Ty Inc. sells a pink bean bag toy hippo named Bubbles.
  • The video game Toontown Online includes a rare playable pink hippo character.

These examples show how the imaginary idea of a pink hippo has become a cultural icon representing extraordinarily low probability. The concept sparks imagination and humor.

Could Pink Hippos Exist?

While wildly improbable, could pink hippos actually exist?

There are a few possible scenarios, though all are highly unlikely:

  • A hippo could be born with albinism, giving it pinkish white skin.
  • An extremely rare genetic mutation could cause a hippo to have pink pigmentation.
  • Artificial coloring could temporarily dye a hippo’s skin pink.

So while not utterly impossible, the chances of encountering a blazing pink hippo in the wilderness are about as likely as winning the lottery jackpot 10 times in a row. For all practical purposes, pink hippos dwell only in our imaginations!


The pink hippo is a metaphor for something extraordinarily rare and improbable. Given that hippos are large, greyish-purple animals confined to Africa, the chances of seeing a flamboyantly pink one are essentially zero. Yet the imagination can envision such an unlikely event, allowing the fanciful concept to enter books, toys, video games, and more. The pink hippo has become a whimsical symbol and thought exercise representing the idea that some things are so far-fetched they may as well inhabit the realm of fantasy. So while you will almost certainly never see a pink hippo in real life, they can inspire delight as imaginary creatures on the very furthest fringes of possibility.