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Fun Facts About Rhinos

A white rhino mother and calf grazing.
A white rhino mother and calf grazing.
Credit: Tim_Booth | Shutterstock

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Perissodactyla

Family: Rhinocerotidae

Genus: Ceratotherium, Dicerorhinus, Diceros, Rhinoceros

Species: Ceratotherium simum (White Rhinoceros); Dicerorhinus sumatrensis (Sumatran Rhinoceros, Hairy Rhinoceros, or Asian Two-Horned Rhinoceros); Diceros bicornis (Black Rhinoceros, Prehensile or hook-lipped rhinoceros); Rhinoceros sondaicus (Javan Rhinoceros, Asian lesser one-horned rhinoceros), Rhinoceros unicornis (Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros, Indian Rhinoceros)

Subspecies: C. simum cottoni (Northern White Rhinoceros, presumed extinct), C. simum simum (Southern White Rhinoceros); D. bicornis michaeli (Eastern Black Rhinoceros), D. bicornis minor (Southern Central Black Rhinoceros), D. bicornis bicornis (Southwestern African Black Rhinoceros),D. bicornis longipes (Western Black Rhinoceros, declared extinct in 2011)

 

See all five species of rhinoceros and read more about them here:

A Crash of Rhinos: See All 5 Species

Basic rhino facts:

The rhinoceros is a large herbivorous mammal, whose distinguishing feature is their large size and the horn or horns that grows from the top of their head.

Some species, such as the black rhino and white rhino, have two horns, whiles others, such as the greater one-horned rhinoceros and the Javan rhino, have only one.

Rhino calves are born without horns.

Rhinoceroses vary in size depending on the species: The largest is the white rhino, which weighs between 4,000-6,000 pounds (1,800 - 2,700 kilograms). The Javan rhino is the smallest, weighing in at about 1,300 – 2,000 pounds.

Because of their huge size, strength and aggressiveness when attacked, rhinoceroses are not often hunted by animals other than humans, although young or sick rhinos are occasionally killed by lions or crocodiles.

Rhinoceros skin is very thick, up to 1.5 cm. It is tough but also quite sensitive to sunburn and insect bites. They often cover themselves in mud to protect their skin from insects and the sun.

Rhinos eat grasses, leaves, and the shoots of bushes and trees. Exactly what rhinos eat can depend on the species and specialization of its lip shape.

Rhinos have poor eyesight but excellent sense of smell and hearing.

Female rhinos gestate their young for about 15-16 months and give birth to a calf every two to three years.

Male rhinos tend to be solitary animals, while females and young rhinos are more social, depending on the species.

Depending on the species and whether they are in the wild or captivity, rhinos can live between 35 and 50 years.

 

Where rhinos live:

Rhinoceroses are native to Africa and some areas of Asia.

The largest population of the white rhinoceros is found in South Africa, with smaller populations in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana and neighboring countries. The black rhinoceros lives throughout southern and western Africa, concentrated around Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

In Asia, there are populations of the Greater One-Horned rhinoceroses on the northeastern Indian sub-continent and Nepal. Borneo and Sumatra are home to the Sumatran rhinoceros, and the Javan rhinoceros lives only in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park. The last Javan rhino was to believed to have been poached from former habitat in Vietnam.

Because rhinoceroses are browsing or grazing animals, they live in grasslands and savannahs.

 

Conservation status: Near Threatened to Critically Endangered

Near threatened: C. simum simum (Southern White Rhinoceros)

Vulnerable: Rhinoceros unicornis (Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros)

Critically endangered: Diceros bicornis (Black Rhinoceros), C. simum cottoni (Northern White Rhinoceros), Rhinoceros sondaicus (Javan Rhinoceros), Dicerorhinus sumatrensis (Sumatran Rhinoceros)

The market in rhinoceros horns has lead to significant threats to rhinos due to poaching.

The black rhino saw the largest population decreases at the end of the 20th century, though anti-poaching efforts have resulted in some recovery, according to the International Rhino Foundation.

There are currently an estimated 4,240 black rhinos, 20,150 white rhinos, 2,800 to 2,850 greater one-horned rhinos, 200 Sumatran rhinos, and only about 27 to 44 Javan rhinos in the wild.

The Javan rhino is the rarest land mammal in the world.

 

Odd facts:

The Sumatran rhino is also called the hairy rhino because it has long, shaggy hair, whereas other rhino species are hairless. This species is the last representative of the woolly rhinoceros, which lived on Earth from about 350,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Black rhinos have a prehensile upper lip, which means they can grasp leaves and branches.

The names "white" and "black rhino" don't describe the color of the animal. "White" is actually misinterpretation of the Afrikaans word "weit," meaning "wide," which describes he white rhino's mouth. Black rhinos are called that either to distinguish them from white rhinos or because of the darker-colored mud they cover themselves in to protect their skin.

The word rhinoceros comes from the Greek rhino (meaning "nose") and ceros (meaning "horn").

A group of rhinos is called a "crash."

Rhinos seem like slow, lumbering beasts, but can actually run between 30 to 40 mph (48 to 64 kph).

Small birds called oxpeckers have a symbiotic relationship with the rhinos. They remove ticks from the rhino's skin, and also make a lot of noise when they perceive a threat, alerting the rhino to danger. The Swahili name for these birds is "askari wa kifaru" (rhino guard).

Rhinos leave piles of dung, which smell unique to each rhino, as message to other rhinos and as fence posts to their territory.

The extinct rhino Paraceratherium was the largest land mammal that ever lived.

The rhino's horn is made of keratin, like human fingernails.

Rhino horn is used in traditional Eastern medicine as a cure for fevers and rheumatism (but not usually for impotence). It is also valued for decorative uses, like dagger handles.

The closest living rhino "relatives" are tapirs, horses and zebras.

 

Other resources:

International Rhino Foundation

Smithsonian National Zoo – Greater One-Horned Asian Rhinoceros

PBS - Rhino Horn Use: Fact vs. Fiction

IUCN – Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis)

IUCN – Greater One-Horned Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis)

IUCN – Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus)

IUCN – White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum)

IUCN - Rhinos

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