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This horned mammal is one of the most endangered animals on Earth
The rhino is an animal that was once found throughout Southeast Asia across Africa. Today, three rhino species are listed as "critically endangered" and cling to small patches of habitat.
With their distinctive horns and gigantic size, the rhino is one of the most unique animals on Earth. However, extensive poaching of rhino horns today threatens several rhino species.
Types of Rhinos – 5 Rhino Species
There are five different species of rhinos that vary widely in size and anatomy. Today, the rhino is an animal that lives in Africa and Asia.
- white rhino
The largest rhino species, the white rhino, is an animal native to Africa. While the southern white rhino has bounced back from the brink of extinction today, the northern white rhino is now functionally extinct after the last male died in 2018.
- black rhino
Famous for their triangular upper lip, the black rhino was once almost all over sub-Saharan Africa. However, today it is critically endangered.
- indian rhino
The Indian rhino is the largest rhino in Asia, and its range spans the foothills of the Indian subcontinent. The Indian rhino has a unique shape with only one horn and skin that has the appearance of "body armor".
- Sumatran Rhino
Once found from India to the island of Borneo, the Sumatran rhino is now critically endangered and only lives in isolated pockets deep in the jungle.
While the Sumatran rhino can still weigh up to 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds), it is the smallest rhino species in the world. The Sumatran rhino is known for its prehistoric appearance, with hair that can cover its entire body.
- javan rhino
The Javan rhino that once roamed Southeast Asia is now confined to a nature reserve in Indonesia called Ujung Kulan National Park.
The name rhinoceros comes from Greek and means "nose horn". There are five species in the Rhinoceros family, with the following scientific names:
· Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)
· White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
· Indian rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis
Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)
· Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus)
appearance and behavior
Rhinos are the second largest land animal after elephants. The species first evolved during the Eocene – an era that ended about 33.9 million years ago – and is one of the last surviving "megafauna". By today's standards, this was a huge animal.
They have a solid cylindrical body with a large head, relatively short legs and a short tail. These animals are characterized by a large horn in the middle of the face; some species have a second, smaller horn.
Rhinos have excellent hearing and a keen sense of smell, but they are notoriously poor at seeing. They are usually gray, black, or brown (although there is one called the "white rhino").
Rhinos generally lead solitary lives. Black rhinos defend their territories more aggressively, while Indian and Javan rhinos have more loosely defined territories that may overlap. Sumatran rhinos, which live in denser forests and vegetation, are diligent in marking trails with feces and urine.
Rhino species vary widely in length and weight, but the average adult rhino weighs about 1.5 tons (1,360 kg). The largest species, the white rhino can weigh up to 3,600 kg (7,920 lb), making it almost four times the average weight of the smaller Sumatran rhino!
White Rhino: 1,440 – 3,600 kg (3,168-7,920 lb)
· Black Rhino: 800-1,400 kg (1,800-3,100 lb)
Indian Rhino: 2,200 – 3,000 kg (4,900-6,600 lb)
Javan Rhino: 900 – 2,300 kg (2,000-5,100 lb)
Sumatran Rhino: 500 – 800 kg (1,100-1760 lb)
The most distinctive feature of rhinos are the large horns that grow from their heads.
Rhino horns are made of keratin, the same type of protein that makes up the hair and nails of most animals, including humans. Both African and Sumatran rhinos have two horns, while Indian and Javan rhinos have only one.
Female Javan rhinos are notable because they typically lack horns or a smaller "bump" on their snouts.
Unfortunately, rhinos are under enormous pressure from poaching because their horns are both needed in traditional Chinese medicine and a status symbol.
longest rhino horn
In 2006, Dr Nico van Strien conducted a species study of the longest rhino horn.
- White Rhino: 59 inches (150 cm)
- Black Rhino: 51 inches (130 cm)
- Sumatran Rhino: 32 inches (81 cm)
- Indian Rhino: 23 inches (57 cm)
- Javan Rhino: 11 inches (27 cm)
Rhino horns can grow into various shapes. For example, the horns of a captive white rhino in Sequim, Washington, grew to more than four feet and were parallel to the ground. The horns were so overgrown they had to be trimmed twice with a chainsaw!
While most rhino species are solitary, the white rhino is the most social of all species. Herds of a dozen or more white rhinos usually form. This behavior is especially common among cows with young calves, as it helps the cow protect her offspring when they face a greater threat from predators.
A herd of rhinos is known as "crash".
Rhinos typically live in dense forests and savannahs, where there is plenty of food to eat and plenty of places for rhinos to hide. The rhino's range once spanned much of Africa and Southeast Asia, but today their range has been greatly reduced.
In Africa, the historical range of rhinos is grasslands and savannahs, spanning most of sub-Saharan Africa. Today, while black rhinos can still be found from Ethiopia to South Africa, their numbers are limited to smaller areas in nature reserves and other protected areas.
The Sumatran and Javan rhinos live in denser forests and once ranged throughout Southeast Asia, but today the Javan rhino can only be found in a nature reserve, and the Sumatran rhino has few surviving populations.
Like other rhino species, the Indian rhino has seen a dramatic decline in its range. It lives in the tall savannahs and forests near the foothills of the Himalayas.
Population – how many white rhinos are left?
Three species of rhino – the black, Sumatran and Javan rhino – are listed as "critically endangered," while the Indian rhino is listed as "vulnerable" and the white rhino is listed as "near threatened."
According to the International Rhino Foundation, the 2019 population numbers for each species are as follows:
- White Rhino: 18,000
- Black Rhino: 5,500
- Indian rhinos: 3,600
- Sumatran Rhino: 80
- Javan Rhino: 72
Four of the five rhino species increased between 2009 and 2019.
The only exception is the Sumatran rhino, which lives in isolated pockets and continues to suffer from poaching. From 2009 to 2019, its population shrank from an estimated 250 to fewer than 80.
Evolution and Origin
Rhinos have been on Earth for a long time. This family diverged from the Tapiridae approximately 55-60 million years ago. This family then evolved into about a hundred different species around the world. Only nine of these survived into the late Pleistocene era.
The species first appeared late in the ecological scene in Eurasia. In fact, the earliest rhinos were actually small and numerous compared to today's weight and size. There are 26 species of small ancient rhinos that lived in Eurasia and North America. Until a wave of extinctions in the mid-Oligocene wiped out many smaller species.
No modern rhinoceros species has gone extinct. In recent years, however, many rhino subspecies have become extinct. Historically, there have been three subspecies of the Javan rhino, but after the last surviving Vietnamese Javan rhino was killed in 2010, only one remains.
Malaysia's Sumatran rhino subspecies was declared extinct in November 2019 after the last male and female rhino died that year. The northern white rhino is now functionally extinct after the last surviving male died in 2018. In 2011, the western black rhino was declared extinct. The subspecies has not been seen since 2001.
The last rhinoceros species to become extinct was the woolly rhino (Coelodonta), which is believed to have died out around 8,000 BC.
Rhinos rarely encounter predators in the wild. Juvenile animals can also be attacked by big cats such as lions or jaguars, in addition to crocodiles and other larger predators.
In addition to the rhino's majestic horns and gigantic size, the species also possesses thick skin that acts as a kind of natural "body armor." Learn about the world's strongest animals here.
The number one threat to rhinos remains poachers. In South Africa alone, 769 rhinos were poached in 2018. Rhino poaching varies by species, and as of 2019, Javan rhinos had not been poached for more than 25 years.
Diet: What do animals eat?
Rhinos are herbivores, eating grass, leaves, shoots, flower buds and fruits to obtain the nutrients rhinos need to grow and survive.
Although rhinos are herbivores, they are known for their aggressive nature, often charging at oncoming predators to scare them away. Most individual rhinos killed by poachers are caught as they quietly drink from watering holes, thus letting their guard down. For a full list of what rhinos eat, check out our What Do Rhinos Eat? page.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Rhinos have one of the longest gestation periods of any animal species, at about 450 days. The longest captive gestation period was that of a white rhino at 548 days (approximately 18 months).
Such a long gestation period means that rhinos typically do not give birth for another 3 to 5 years. Such a long gestation period and the extended time between giving birth to a new calf makes repopulating rhinos a particularly challenging problem.
How long do white rhinos live? The oldest captive white rhino lived to be 55, the oldest recorded black rhino was 52, and the oldest Indian rhino lived to be 48. In general, rhino species can live between 35 and 50 years.
Incredible Rhino Facts
- "Armored" Animals
- Rhinos have a unique skin structure and material that makes them distinct from most mammals. Rhino hides were three times thicker than expected compared to their body size and contained cross-linked collagen fibers. The thickest rhino hides can be about 2 inches (5 centimeters) thick.
- What's in a rhino horn?
- Rhino horns are made of hairs that grow close together, and the natural "glue" produced by glands in the rhino's nose holds these hairs together tightly. You may have heard that rhino horn is made from the same material as your nails, and that's because rhino horn contains tubules of keratin, a protein found in hair, skin, and nails.
- Today, 85% of rhinos live in one country
- While rhinos have historically roamed much of sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, today an estimated 85 percent of extant rhinos are found in just one country: South Africa.
- From 1 million black rhinos to 5,500 today
- While more than 1 million black rhinos are estimated to have lived across Africa in the early 20th century, they number just 5,500 today. Despite the alarming rate of population decline, black rhino populations continue to rebound.
- Why is rhino poaching soaring?
- Between 1960 and 1995, 98% of black rhinos were killed by poachers. The rise in poaching can be traced back to China's Chairman Mao Zedong's push for a return to traditional Chinese medicine that uses rhino horn as a remedy. Now, strict bans have slowed the rhino horn trade in China, while demand in Vietnam has led to a surge in poaching.
- Two of the world's most endangered large mammals
- With fewer than 100 individuals, the Sumatran and Javan rhinos are two of the world's most endangered large mammals. While Javan rhino populations have stabilized in recent decades, some estimates suggest there may be as few as 30 Sumatran rhinos surviving today.
- There is hope for even the most endangered species
- Thanks to incredible conservation work, there is hope for the rhino species. The number of black rhinos has doubled this century. The white rhino population has rebounded from about 50 rhinos to nearly 20,000. In addition, the Indian rhino population has rebounded from fewer than 100 to about 3,600 today.
- Nearly a quarter of rhinos live in private game reserves
- Today, more than 5 million acres of private game reserves are home to 6,500 rhinos, about a quarter of all rhinos.
- The Illegal Rhino Horn Trade Is More Than Poaching
- While the illegal trade in rhino horn has led to serious poaching over the past decade, thieves are targeting rhino horn from unusual places. In 2011, thieves robbed a museum in Dublin and stole four rhino horns from the museum. The robbery is estimated to fetch $650,000 on the black market. Also, in 2011, rhino horns were stolen from a museum in Ipswich, England. Between 2002 and 2011, more than 20 cases of rhino horn theft from museums were reported.
- fight back
- In addition to protecting rhinos in protected areas where rangers and other (often armed) guards can protect them, there are conservation efforts going on to protect rhinos in unique ways, such as dyeing rhino horns with red dye and 3D printing rhino horns Even introducing rhinos into new environments and private reserves by driving down the price of their horns.
- You can help save the rhino
- There are many organizations dedicated to helping rhino conservation efforts. These efforts include Save the Rhino (savetherhino.org) and the World Wildlife Fund (worldwildlife.org)
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Rhinoceros FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Who would win a fight between a rhino and a hippo?
In a rhino vs. hippopotamus, the winner will depend on where they meet. On land, a rhino can use its charging abilities and horns to successfully attack hippos. Hippos have an advantage near water.
Are rhinos related to dinosaurs?
While rhinos may have similarities to dinosaurs such as Triceratops, the two animals are not related. Dinosaurs are reptiles while rhinos are mammals.
How long do rhino horns last?
The largest rhino horn ever recorded was 59 inches and was found on a white rhino. In general, rhino horns are about 20 inches long, but this varies by species.
How fast do rhino horns grow?
Rhino horns can regrow in about three years. Rhinos are often dehorned as a precaution against poachers, but it's important to leave some of the horn behind so it can regrow.
What are rhino horns made of?
Rhino horns are made of hairs that grow close together, and the natural "glue" of the glands on the rhino's nose holds these hairs together tightly. You may have heard that rhino horn is made from the same material as your nails, and that's because rhino horn contains tubules of keratin, a protein found in hair, skin, and nails.
Do rhinos have body armor?
Rhinos have a unique skin structure and material that make them distinct from most mammals. Rhino hides were three times thicker than expected compared to their body size and contained cross-linked collagen fibers. The thickest rhino hides can be about 2 inches (5 centimeters) thick.
Which rhino species is the most endangered?
As of 2019, the Javan rhino population is estimated at 72, while the Sumatran rhino population is less than 80. Because the Sumatran rhino population is more widespread, they are considered the most endangered of all species.
Where can I find Rhino?
As of December 2018, there were 302 zoos and 1,037 rhinos. The most common rhino in zoos is the white rhino, followed by the black rhino. As of 2015, the last Sumatran rhino in the Western Hemisphere had been relocated from the Cincinnati Zoo to Indonesia.
What food do rhinos eat?
Rhinos are herbivores, eating grass, leaves, shoots, flower buds and fruit. Different rhino species have evolved traits adapted to their diet. For example, the white rhino has a square
What is a herd of rhinos called?
Most rhinos are solitary animals, but white rhinos gather in groups of up to a dozen individuals. When a herd of rhinos forms, it's called a "crash."
What is the largest rhino?
An extinct rhino species that lived 34-23 million years ago was 16 feet tall at the shoulder and weighed about 20 tons! The largest rhino species today is the white rhino, weighing 7,920 pounds (3,600 kilograms).
What is the top speed of a rhino?
The top speed reported by rhinos is usually between 30 mph and 35 mph (48 km/h and 56 km/h). The San Diego Zoo reports black rhinos can reach speeds of up to 40 mph (64 km/h).
To which kingdom do rhinos belong?
Rhinos belong to the animal kingdom.
What phylum does the rhino belong to?
Rhinos belong to the phylum Chordate.
What class do rhinos belong to?
Rhinos belong to the mammal class.
What family does the rhino belong to?
Rhinos belong to the rhinoceros family.
What order do rhinos belong to?
Rhinos belong to the order Perissodactyla.
What type of mulch do rhinos have?
Rhinos are covered with tough skin.
Who are the natural enemies of rhinos?
Predators of rhinos include humans and feral cats.
What is the average litter size for rhinos?
The average litter size for rhinos is 1 head.
What interesting facts about rhinos?
Rhino horns are made of keratin!
What is the scientific name of the rhino?
The scientific name of the rhino is Rhinoceros.
What is the lifespan of a rhino?
Rhinos can live 35 to 50 years.
What's the Difference Between a Rhinoceros and a Triceratops?
The biggest differences between Triceratops and Rhinoceros are their shape, size and location.
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