The word Rhinoceros is used to describe any one of the five extant species and several extinct species of the members of the family Rhinocerotidae. The name is often abbreviated to just Rhino.
The word itself comes from the Greek rhinoceros, which translates to mean ‘nose-horned,’ rhinos (nose) and kerato/Keras (horn).
The five species of rhinos that still exist on the planet include the White Rhinoceros, Black Rhinoceros, Indian Rhinoceros, Javan Rhinoceros and Sumatran Rhinoceros.
Rhinos are some of the largest remaining megafauna with all species known to weight one ton or more. Oddly enough, although they have such a massive presence, the rhino brain is quite small for a mammal of its size. The rhino brain is 400 to 600-grams.
Their diet is described as herbivorous which means leafy greens for the most part. As the rhino has a stomach that permits the fermenting of food, they can eat more fibrous material when required.
Types of Rhino Species
White Rhinoceros(Ceratotherium simum)
The largest species of rhino, the white rhinoceros is native to Africa. While the Southern white rhino has rebounded from the brink of extinction today, the Northern white rhino is now functionally extinct after the last male died in 2018.
Black Rhinoceros(Diceros bicornis)
Known for its triangular upper lip, the black rhinoceros once roamed across nearly all of sub-Saharan Africa. However, today it’s critically endangered.
Indian Rhinoceros(Rhinoceros unicornis)
The largest rhinoceros native to Asia, the Indian rhinoceros has a range that extends across the foothills of the Indian subcontinent. The Indian rhinoceros has a distinct appearance with a single horn and skin that has the appearance of “body armor.”
Once found from India to the island of Borneo, today the Sumatran rhinoceros is critically endangered and located in just a few isolated pockets deep inside jungles.
While the Sumatran rhinoceros can still weigh up to 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds), it’s the smallest species of rhinoceros in the world. Sumatran rhinos are known for their prehistoric appearance, with hair that can cover their entire bodies.
Javan Rhinoceros(Rhinoceros sondaicus)
Once roaming across Southeast Asia, The Javan rhinoceros today is limited to a single nature preserve in Indonesia named Ujung Kulan National Park.
The most notable features of rhinos are the large horns that grow from their heads.
The horns of a rhinoceros are made of keratin, the same type of protein that makes up hair and fingernails in most animals including humans. Both African species of rhino and the Sumatran rhinoceros have two horns, while the Indian rhino and Javan rhinoceros have just one horn.
Female Javan rhinos are notable in that they often lack a horn or have a smaller “bump” on their nose.
Unfortunately, rhinos face incredible pressure from poaching as their horn is desired for both traditional Chinese medicine and as a status symbol.
Behavior And Habit
Rhinos generally live a solitary lifestyle. Black rhinos will more aggressively defend their territory while Indian and Javan rhinos have more loosely defined territory that may overlap. Sumatran rhinos, which live in more dense forests and vegetation are diligent about marking trails with feces and urine.
The rhinoceros is generally found in thick forests and savannas where there is plenty of food to eat and lots of cover for the rhino to hide in. Rhinoceros’ once spanned a range that spanned across the majority of Africa and Southeast Asia, however today their range has been significantly reduced.
In Africa, the rhinoceros’ historical range was on grasslands and savannah stretching across most of sub-Saharan Africa. Today, while black rhinos can still be found stretching from Ethiopia to South Africa, their populations are limited to smaller pockets on nature preserves and other protected areas.
The Sumatran and Javan rhino live in denser forests and once saw their range extend across all of Southeast Asia, however today the Javan rhino can be found in only a single nature preserve while the Sumatran rhino has few remaining pockets of surviving population.
Like other rhino species, the Indian rhinoceros has seen its range dramatically decreased. It lives in tall grasslands and forests near the foothills of the Himalayas mountain range.
The rhinoceros is a herbivore and eats grasses, leaves, shoots, buds and fruits in order to gain the nutrients that the rhino needs to grow and survive.
Although the rhino is a herbivore, they are known for their aggressive nature and will often charge towards oncoming predators in order to scare them away. Most rhinoceros individuals that are killed by poachers are caught out when they are quietly drinking from a water hole and therefore drop their guard.
Rhinos have one of the longest gestation periods of all animal species at about 450 days. The longest reported captive gestation period was a white rhinoceros that was 548 days’ gestation (about 18 months).
This long gestation period means that rhinos typically don’t give birth again for an additional 3 to 5 years. This long gestation period and extended length between birthing new calves has made repopulating rhinoceroses an especially challenging problem.
How long do white rhinos live? The oldest white rhino in captivity lived to 55 while the oldest record of a black rhino was 52 years, and the oldest Indian rhino lived to 48. Generally, rhino species can live to be between 35 to 50 years old.
Habitat: Grasslands, floodplains, swamps, rainforests
Location: East & Southern Africa, India, Nepal, Malaysia & Indonesia
.Lifespan: 35 – 50 years
Size: 7.5ft – 13ft (2.5 to 4 m)
Weight: 1,540- 3,500 pounds (700 – 1,600 kg)
Color:Slate grey, brown
Diet: Herbivores – Vegetation, fruit, grass, twigs, leaves
Predators: Crocodiles, big cats & hyenas can prey on a baby rhinos. Adults, don’t generally have predators.
Top Speed: 55 kph (35 mph)
No. of Species: 5
Conservation Status: 3 Species
Critically Endangered – Javan, Sumatran & Black rhino.