Arginine vasopressin (AVP) made by hypothalamic neurons is released into the circulation to stimulate water resorption by the kidneys and restore water balance after blood loss. Patients who lack this antidiuretic hormone suffer from central diabetes insipidus. We observed that many of these patients were anemic and asked whether AVP might play a role in red blood cell (RBC) production. We found that all three AVP receptors are expressed in human and mouse hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. The AVPR1B appears to play the most important role in regulating erythropoiesis in both human and mouse cells. AVP increases phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 5, as erythropoietin (EPO) does. After sublethal irradiation, AVP-deficient Brattleboro rats showed delayed recovery of RBC numbers compared to control rats. In mouse models of anemia (induced by bleeding, irradiation, or increased destruction of circulating RBCs), AVP increased the number of circulating RBCs independently of EPO. In these models, AVP appears to jump-start peripheral blood cell replenishment until EPO can take over. We suggest that specific AVPR1B agonists might be used to induce fast RBC production after bleeding, drug toxicity, or chemotherapy.