Rhinoceros

The rhinoceros, commonly simplified to rhino, is one of the largest odd-toed ungulates living today. They are easily recognizable from their horn, the number of which varies from species to species, and their thick, hairless skin.

Scientific Classification

Animalia
Chordata
Mammalia
Perissodactyla

Scientific Classification

Animalia
Chordata
Mammalia
Perissodactyla

Rhinos are a common target of illegal hunting and poaching for their horn, which is believed to have medicinal value in some parts of the world, but no such property has yet been found to exist.

Types of Rhinos

List of the Common Types of Rhino Species

There are 5 species of rhinoceros found at present. Though they all have a close resemblance in physical features, they do have some visible differences. Several rhinos became extinct long ago, most notably the wooly rhinoceros, which went extinct 14,000 years ago due to changing climates.

Physical Description and Appearance

Rhino

Size: Length: 7-15 ft (2.4-4.6 m)

The smallest rhino is the Sumatran rhino between 7 ft 10 in – 10 ft 6 in in length, while the white rhinoceros is the largest ranging between 11–15 ft.

Weight: 1500-7100 lb. (700-3200 kg)

The lightest is the Sumatran rhino at 1500 lb, while the heaviest is the Indian rhino at 4200-7100 lbs.

Horn: The number of horns a rhino can have depends on the species, with the Indian and Javan rhinos having a single horn, while the other three have two horns, a large protruding horn, and a smaller, knob-like horn closer to its eyes.

Body and Coloration: The general body type of all rhinos is a stout one, with four short, stubby legs. Its thick skin is hairless and folded and has a small tail with a tuft of hair on end.

The color ranges from yellowish-brown to slate gray. For instance, both the black and white rhinoceros are actually gray, despite what their names imply.

Where are they found

Two rhino species live in Africa, while the other three reside in Asia. They can currently be found in Borneo and Sumatra, Namibia, the Eastern Himalayas, and Coastal East Africa.

Habitat

Their habitats include tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands, tropical moist forests, and deserts.

Rhino Habitat
Rhinos

How long do they live

The average lifespan of all rhino species ranges from 35-50 years.

What do they eat

Rhinos tend to be browsers and grazers, feeding on bushes, grass, shrubs, and the bark of certain trees.

Behavior

  • While rhinos have a reputation for being aggressive and dangerous creatures, they are generally shy and avoid intruders. But if one gets too close, they will try to attack and drive them away by charging at them with their head lowered to use their horns effectively.
  • Rhinos, both male and female, tend to live solitary lives in their individual territories.
  • They spend most of their time feeding, sleeping only during the hottest times of the day. When not feeding, they can be seen taking mud baths to prevent bugs from irritating them.
  • The Asian rhinos are good swimmers, while their African counterparts are not and may drown in deep water.
  • Rhinos are capable of running very fast, with the Black rhino being the fastest reaching speeds of 34 mph.
Rhinoceros
Rhino Images

Predators

Adult rhinos have almost no predators. But younger rhinos, or calves, are often preyed upon by big cats, lions in Africa and tigers in Asia, and also by crocodiles, hyenas, leopards, or wild dogs on occasion.

Adaptations

  • Their thick skin allows for protection, and the lack of hair on their bodies prevents them from overheating.
  • The horn on the rhino’s head is made up of keratin and has several uses. Besides defense against predators, the horn on its head helps them dig watering holes and crush branches. Horns also grow back over time if damaged.
  • Depending on the type of food they consume, the mouths of different species of rhinos vary. For instance, the black rhinoceros has a beak-like mouth for eating twigs and leaves, while the white rhinoceros has a broad mouth to take big bites of grass.
Rhino Teeth
Rhino Eye

How do they reproduce

Males fight among themselves to decide who gets to mate with a female rhino in heat. After a long, and sometimes dangerous, courtship ritual, the two begin to copulate. The process is similar to other large mammals, with the male mounting the female from behind.

Life Cycle

After a long gestation period of 15-18 months, a single calf is born (twins are rare). The calf is 21 inches tall and doesn’t have a horn at birth, but slowly grows one after a couple of months. The calves stay with their mother until 4 years at a time, unless the mother becomes pregnant and gives birth to a new calf which then takes priority.

Baby Rrhinoceros
Baby Rhino

Female rhinos reach sexual maturity around 3 years, but males aren’t ready for breeding until around 7.

Video

Conservation

As per the IUCN, the black, Javan, and Sumatran rhinoceros are “Critically Endangered” or “CR”, the Indian rhino is “Vulnerable” or “VU”, and the white rhino is “Near Threatened” or “NT”.  There are believed to be around 27,000 rhinos left in the world today, with most of them living in nature preserves and national parks. They are mostly at risk from poachers who trade in their horns illegally.

Picture of Rhinoceros
Rhino Horns

Rhinoceros – FAQs

1. What is a group of rhinos called?

A group of rhinos is collectively called a crash.

2. Do rhinos put out fires?

Despite preconceived notions, there is no evidence of rhinos putting out fires by trampling them.

3. What is the difference between elephants and rhinos?

There are several differences between the two, such as the elephant living in herds instead of the solitary nature of the rhino and the rhino being able to run faster than an elephant.

4. Are hippos and rhinos related?

No, hippos are closer in relation to cetaceans, while rhinos are more related to, though very distantly, horses.

5. Can rhinos live without their horns?

If rhinos lose their horn naturally, they can grow it back, but if it is cut off by poachers the re-growth of the horn is compromised.

6. Do rhinos have hooves?

They are the largest hoofed animals that are found in the present day.

7. How long have rhinos been around?

The rhinoceros originated from the tribe Dicerotini, which first appeared about 14.2 million years ago.

8. What sounds do rhinos make?

They are quiet animals but occasionally make grunts and trumpet-like calls when angry.

Rhino Picture
Rhino Animal

Interesting Facts

  • Rhinos have a mutually beneficial relationship with certain birds like oxpeckers, who eat parasites off the rhino’s skin giving it relief, while its calls can alert the rhino to any danger.
  • Dreaming about a rhino indicates an imminent obstacle is approaching that will be hard to overcome.
  • The first ever sanctuary in Kenya was established in 1984 in Lake Nakuru in Kenya. Currently the largest number of black rhinos worldwide can be found there.