- The word “urine” is from the Latin urina, which is from the variant of the Proto-Indo-European root *awer, meaning “to moisten, flow.”
- Some women in ancient Rome drank turpentine (which can be poisonous) because it made their urine smell like roses.
- In many Muslim countries, both men and women sit or squat to pee. They think standing up to urinate is something dogs, not humans, do.
- In ancient China, both men and women stood up to urinate. Chinese noblemen would urinate into hollow canes so the urine would flow far way from their bodies.
- Approximately 200 years ago, European women urinated standing up. They wore long dresses and no underpants.
- Each year in Canada, about 225 men fall overboard and drown as a consequence of standing up in a boat to urinate overboard.
- Ancient Roman spies used urine as invisible ink to write secrets between the lines of their official documents, hence the saying: “read between the lines.” The messages appeared only when heated.
- The word “piss” is an onomatopoetic term for urine and has been used since before the 14th century.
Where and how we pee is culturally and historically determined
- In ancient Egypt and Ireland, women stood to urinate. It was the men who sat or squatted.
- American pioneers treated earaches by pouring warm urine in their ears and then plugging them with cloth.
- It would take a dozen mice one entire day to fill a tablespoon with urine.
- A horse such as a Clydesdale can urinate more than 4.5 gallons per day.
- An elephant can urinate more than 13 gallons per day. It’s easier to measure this on a male elephant, as female elephants often poop and urinate at the same time.
- A fin whale’s bladder can hold 5½ gallons of urine.
- Tortoises in the Mojave Desert store up to 1/3 of their body weight in urine. When they need water, the water in their urine flows back into their bodies while the waste remains and expels.
- Camels do not store water in their humps. When they need to, they keep most of the water in their bodies from turning into urine. Consequently, camel urine is twice as salty as seawater. When they do urinate, they urinate all over their legs, which helps them keep cool.
- Cave rats make urine trails throughout the deep, dark caverns of the caves, which tell the rats how to find their way in the dark.
- The Billy goat urinates all over his belly, chest, and beard to attract a mate. Similarly, a male porcupine sprays his urine in different directions—and when he finds a mate, he urinates all over her.
- The South American degu, a small rodent, uses urine to mark its passageways. Its urine reflects ultraviolet light, which the degu can see.
- Siberian chipmunks cover themselves in snake urine whenever they can to camouflage their own scent.
- When two male hippos fight to protect their territory, they will turn so they are bottom to bottom. They then cover each other with a urine/excrement combination, while twirling their tails like propellers to spread it around. Hippos are retromingent, which means they are able to urinate backwards
- Male lobster’s bladders are in their heads, and when they fight, they squirt each other in the face with urine.
- Hunters will often douse themselves and their dogs with fake raccoon pee to hide their scent from prey.
During hibernation, bears neither defecate or urinate
- Bears do not urinate while they hibernate. Their bodies convert urine into protein and use it as food.
- Urine was used by drug companies to make medicine—for example, urokinese, which helped dissolved the blood clots that caused heart attacks.
- In 1815, Captain James Riley and his crew of the Commerce drank camel urine to stay alive after they were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa and had to cross the Sahara Desert to reach home.
- A child’s bladder can hold an ounce or more of urine for every year of age. Adult bladders can hold up to 2½ cups of urine for two to five hours. They feel the urge to urinate five to seven times a day, whenever they collect a cup’s worth.
- The American pilgrims made a type of soap called “chamber lye” by letting urine sit in a barrel and then mixing it with ashes.
- The Inuit cleaned themselves in steam baths made by urinating on hot rocks in enclosed tents. In parts of India and East Africa where water is scarce or polluted, people still bathe in cow urine.
- A few centuries ago, the ladies of England and France would use urine to give their skin a fresh glow. They would either urinate in their hands to soften them or they would use puppy urine. In the 21st century, laboratories create synthetic “urea” to use in modern lotions and creams.
- The Chinook Indian tribe used to make “Chinook Olives” by soaking acorns in urine for five months. The dish was considered a delicacy.
- European bakers used urine to help their bread rise before they discovered yeast.
- As men age, the speed of their urine stream declines. In fact, men urinate faster than women up until around the age of 50, and then women urinate faster.
Approximately 1 in 3 men over the age of 50 develop problems with urinary outflow
- While butterflies sip nectar from flowers, they also sip any urine that has collected on the flowers and leaves any chance they get. Urine is a butterfly’s best source of vitamins.
- Reindeer drink urine because salt is rare in their harsh climate. In fact, when Siberian sled masters want to gather their reindeer to hook up to the sled, they urinate to attract the reindeer.
- The Inuit would catch wild reindeer by covering the top of a pit with thin slabs of ice. Then they would urinate in a line leading up to the trap.
- Foamy urine can be caused by turbulent urine or it can be a sign of proteins in the urine (proteinuria). When the body’s filtration system becomes damaged (most commonly by diabetes or hypertension), protein molecules enter the urinary stream.
- Brown or “Coca-Cola” urine is typically caused by a liver dysfunction or a blockage in the bile ducts that causes bile to spill into the bloodstream and then into the urine. A bile duct blockage can be a sign of a pancreatic tumor.
- Several major league baseball players, including Moises Alou and Jorge Posada, used urine on their hands to prevent and relieve calluses.
- Paruresis—also known as Shy Bladder Syndrome, Tinkle Terror, Ballpark Bladder or Pee Anxiety—is surprisingly common, with 7-10% of American men reporting difficulty urinating in the presence of others.
Pee-phoria is also known as Pleasure Pee, Piss Bliss, and Ecstasy Pee
- “Pee-phoria” or the sense of release as bladder pressure diminishes is a result of the stimulation of nerve endings in the urinary system.
- Urolagnia (also Golden Shower, Water Sports, urophilia, or undinism) is the sexual arousal associated with the sight or thought of urine. It is sometimes confused with arousal from having a full bladder or a sexual attraction to someone who is experiencing the discomfort of a full bladder.
- Women need to urinate in only one direction (vertically); however, men need to urinate in both the horizontal and vertical directions, making aiming a little more difficult. For men, the main problems occur at the beginning and end of urination when their control over stream velocity is poor.
- The kidneys form urine by removing waste materials, salts, and other substances from the blood and sending them out of the body. Kidneys produce urine continuously, regardless if a person is sleeping or awake.
- One kidney could handle the task of filtering the blood and making urine perfectly well. In fact, if one kidney is removed, the remaining kidney can increase in size by 50% within two months to take over the whole job.
- Bile pigments give color to both urine and feces. Without them, feces would be ashy white and urine would be as clear as water. The main bile pigment in urine is a reddish-yellow-brown substance called urobilin.
- While fresh urine has very little smell, stale urine can develop a strong odor as bacteria begin to break down the urea into ammonia.
- The urethra is much longer in males than in females. In a grown male, it is about 8" long, but it is only about 2" long in women. In men, seminal fluid and urine never mix and never flow out of the body at the same time.
- After a woman urinates, the urethra empties by gravity. In males, the bulbospongiosus muscle contracts several times to void the remaining urine in the urethra.
- The scientific name for urination is micturition. Urination is also called voiding, peeing, weeing, pissing, and emiction.
- In a lifetime, the kidneys clean more than 1 million gallons of water, enough to fill a small lake.
Approximately 91-96% of urine consists of water
- The most famous pee fragrance is asparagus aroma. This is a very foul, eggy odor that results from the release of sulfur-containing compounds during asparagus digestion. Only 50% of the world’s population has ever detected the aroma of asparagus pee because only 50% of people have the genes needed to detect the smell. However, cutting off the tips of asparagus can prevent the pungent-smelling pee.
- In the past, doctors diagnosed diabetes by pouring urine into the sand to see if it was sweet enough to attract bugs. Other physicians just dipped a finger in and took a taste.
- Some dogs can detect cancer simply by smelling people’s urine.
- Ancient Greek physicians tried to cure insanity with donkey urine. Others tried to treat fevers by boiling an egg in the patient’s urine and then burying it in an anthill.
- Urine is either dark or light yellow, depending on the amount of water in it. Urine can turn neon bright if a person consumes a lot of Vitamin B. Beets, rhubarb, and blackberries can turn it reddish brown.
- The armor a medieval knight would wear was like wearing a short dress (except it was made of metal and was a lot heavier). The knight would simply pull up his mail skirt and pull down his loosened hose and underwear to urinate. However, the acid in the urine could rust his armor if urine was accidentally spilled.
- Fighter jet pilots wear a baglike gadget called a “piddle-pack” to urinate while they fly.
- Truck drivers who do not want to pull over will urinate into gallon jugs and toss them on the side of the road. In one month, Washington State cleaned up 1,000 of these types of bottles on a 100-mile stretch of highway.
Romans also used urine to do their laundry
- In ancient Rome, people had to pay to use public bathrooms. The city made even more money selling the urine to tradesmen who bleached cloth with it.
- In medieval Scotland, a man would walk through the streets with a big bucket and cloak. For a price, people could urinate in the bucket and drape the cloak around them for privacy.
- Leonardo da Vinci proposed that houses be built with spiral staircases so people couldn’t urinate in the corners.
- Both male and female astronauts urinate into a funnel (nicknamed “Mr. Thirsty”), which is attached to a tube. A gentle vacuum sucks the urine into a tank without spilling a drop. When the tank is full, it shoots the urine outside, where it freezes into clouds of ice crystals that look like stars. Astronaut Wally Schirra liked to call it “Constellation Urion.”
- The International Space station is building a system to purify and reuse the water in urine—and not just human urine. NASA estimates that 72 rats urinate about as much as one astronaut.
- A vampire bat drinks about 2 tablespoons of blood, which is more than half of its body weight. However, two minutes after the bat starts drinking, it starts to urinate, keeping the nutritious parts of the blood while unloading the watery part, slimming it down for takeoff.
- Baby bears are born in the winter and stay inside their dens until spring. Every time a cub finishes nursing, the mom licks its bottom to make it urinate. The mother bear then drinks the urine, which helps keep the den clean.
- A British bus company uses sheep urine to reduce city smog. A chemical in the urine converts part of the fuel exhaust into nonpolluting nitrogen and steam.
- Some cultures use urine mixed with coal dust to make dye for their tattoos.
- Urine is 95% water, 2.5% urea, and 2.5% of other mixtures of minerals, salts, and enzymes. It is a blood byproduct and is nontoxic.
- While urine has been used to treat a wide range of ailments—including birthmarks, AIDS, and Kaposi’s sarcoma—most physicians argue it has little medical value.
Swimming pools are basically huge toilet bowls
- One in five adults admitted to urinating in swimming pools, which means 20% of adults in swimming pools have urinated in it. Red eyes associated with swimming are not caused by chlorine. They are caused by chloramine, a chemical that is created when urine combines with the chlorine already in the pool. In fact, the more strong smelling a pool is, the more contaminated it is.
- After a 21-year-old man urinated into an uncovered reservoir in Oregon, the state controversially flushed the entire reservoir, which was over 8 million gallons of water. The water had already been purified and was ready to go directly to homes.
- German alchemists attempted to extract gold from urine, but they discovered white phosphorus instead.
- Eating beets can cause beeturia, or pink/red urine that contains betanin.
- The U.S. Army Field Manual cautions against drinking urine in an emergency because urine contains salts, which may exacerbate dehydration. Instead, urine can be used to cool the body by soaking a cloth in urine and placing it on the head.
- Urine therapy, or drinking one’s own urine, is very popular in several countries. In Germany for example, nearly 5 million people regularly drink the liquid. In China, over 3 million people drink urine. Singers Jim Morrison and John Lennon and political activist Gandhi were also advocates. Boy George drank his own urine for six months and even consumed it in public. Urine therapists suggest that urine should be sipped, not guzzled, and it should be morning urine caught in midstream. A person doing urine therapy also needs to avoid salty foods and drink plenty of water.
- In Cameroon, drinking urine is a crime that can be punished with jail time.
- Jennifer Strange, 28, died within hours of taking part in a competition for a Nintendo console. Called “Hold Your Wee for a Wii,” the competition said it would award a Wii video game system to whoever could drink the most water without urinating.
- P-Mate is a device that allows women to urinate standing up. A woman places the entrance of P-Mate directly under the urethra and then urinates into it.
- Before the industrial revolution, because urine was rich in ammonia, it was used as a cleaning agent called “lant.”
- Urine was used in WWI in gas masks. The ammonia in urine was thought to neutralize the chlorine in chlorine gas. However, scientists later discovered that chlorine gas reacts with urine to produce toxic fumes.
On the plus side, peeing in the shower once a day can save you from buying a roll of toilet paper every 50 days
- Forty-five percent of people urinate in the shower.
- Urine was used to make gunpowder during the Civil War. The southern army even put ads in the newspapers asking Southern ladies to save their urine and that wagons with barrels would be sent “around to gather up the lotion.”
- Urine does not help with jellyfish stings. According to the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the best treatment is washing the affected area and then applying lidocaine.
- Emperor Vespasian created a tax on urine (vectigal urinae). The tax is the origin of the still-used saying Pecunia non olet, or “Money does not smell.” In France, public urinals are called vespasiennes after Emperor Vespasian.
- The urine of cats will glow under a black light.
- Women typically urinate in a wider stream than men due to having sex and giving birth. Centuries ago, the stream of the urine was used as a test to determine a woman’s virginity. If she urinated like a man, she was thought to be a virgin.
- Men who pierce their penis may alter their urine stream. The piercing may cause spraying, split stream, and so on. Some men need to cover the piercing hole with a hand to urinate in a consistent stream.
- Eskimos used to use a handful of grass that had been saturated with urine to clean their teeth after eating.
- Zookeepers in Calcutta, India, were caught drugging rhinos to make them urinate more. They sold the urine as an ingredient in medicine.
- Scientists are genetically engineering mice so they can grow human drugs in the mice’s bladders and urinate them out.
- African farmers spray cow urine on cotton plants to keep insects away.
- In one Voodoo curse, a bottle is filled with the victim’s urine, pins, needles, nails, and herbs, and then wedged into a hole in the tree. The victim allegedly will develop kidney disease.
- In the 16th century, the English and Dutch used to toast someone’s health by drinking urine, or “flapdragons.”
The ammonia found in urine acts as a bleaching agent
- In Ancient Rome, people would rinse their mouths with urine to whiten their teeth. An 18th-century French physician, Pierre Fauchard (the father of modern dentistry), recommended urine to relieve a toothache.
- In 1917, artist Marcel Duchamp signed a urinal and put it in an art exhibit. It has been named one of the most influential works of modern art.
- Birds have only one opening to eliminate their waste, so both their feces and urine come out together.
- Native Australians believed that the oceans are made from the urine of an angry god who tried to drown the world.
- Snakes do not have urine bladders, so their urine is voided as soon as it is made.
1Goodman, Susan E. Gee Whiz: It’s All about Pee. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2006.
2Richman, Josh and Anish Sheth, M.D. What’s My Pee Telling Me? San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Book, 2009.
3Silverstein, Alivn, Virginia Silverstein, and Robert Silverstein. The Excretory System. New York, NY: Twenty-First Century Books, 1994.
4Stebner, Beth.“Putting the 'p' in Pool: One in Five Adults Urinate in Swimming Pools.” Mail Online. May 31, 2012. Accessed: June 10, 2012.
5“Urine.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Accessed: July 5, 2012.
6“Who, What, Why: Does a Reservoir Need Emptying If Someone Urinates in It?” BBC News. June 23 2011. Accessed: June 10, 2012.