Rhino Fun Facts
We visited a zoo recently and my son was fascinated by the rhinoceros couple that we saw there. It’s huge size, the way it walked, it’s seemingly thick skin, and it’s amazing horn (which gives them their name: the name “rhinoceros’, means “nose horn”) held him spellbound for many minutes!
As soon as we reached home, we did some digging into these cool creatures and found some amazing facts about them. I could not help, but share them with you all.
1. Five Species
The first rhinoceros who wandered on the planet was the Woolly Rhino which, lived around 50 million years ago.
As of now, we have five species of rhinoceros. Two of them, the black rhino and the white rhino live in Africa. The other three, the Sumatran, Javan and Indian (or greater one-horned) rhino inhabit the tropical forests and swamps of Asia.
Despite what the name suggests, the both the black and white rhinos are actually greyish and brownish. The white rhino is said to have gotten its name from the Afrikaans word for wide (‘wyd’), referring to its wide, square lip (in contrast, black rhinos have a pointy upper lip). The explorers mistook this name to be ‘white’.
2. All Species are Endangered
Rhinos have no natural predators (though they are easily frightened), because of their strong horns and thick, armour-like skin. Despite this fact, there are only about 29,000 rhinoceros left in the wild, as compared to 500,000 at the beginning of the 20th century.
In fact, there are thought to be fewer than 70 Javan and 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild. All Javan rhinos are found in one small area – the Ujung Kulon National Park, a World Heritage Site. To top it, there is a volcano within close range of this habitat!
Rhino populations have decreased significantly due to illegal hunting for their attractive horns used in traditional folk medicine, particularly in Asia.
3. They are Huge
They are the second largest mammals on Earth after elephants. The largest of the five species is the white rhino, which can grow to 1.8m tall and weigh almost 2,500kg – that is the weight of 30 men!
4. They are Herbivores
Despite their huge size, rhinos are herbivores. They munch on lots of grass and plants at night, dawn and dusk. White rhinoceros have a flat, wide, and broad mouth. They are called “grazers” as they eat grass from the ground. Black rhinos, called “browsers”, have beak-shaped lips and they consume leaves and twigs from trees. Both black and white rhinos do not have teeth but use their lips for plucking.
5. Horns are made from Keratin
Keratin is a protein that our nails and hair are made of. Interestingly, Rhino’s horns are made up of this very same protein. Like our hair and nails, the horns continue to grow throughout their life. The white rhino’s horn can grow 7cm every year – and the record length is 150cm long!
Black and Sumatran rhinos have two horns whereas Indian and Javan rhinoceros have one horn only.
6. Group of Rhinos are Crash
Rhinos are mostly solitary animals. The females, called cows, are more sociable and live together in groups. These groups are called crash. The males on the other hand are extremely territorial, marking their territory with, nothing other than, poop!
7. Poor Vision
Rhinos have a very poor vision. In fact, they can’t see a motionless person at a distance of 30m! This is the reason that they cannot see the hunters until they are very close. What they lack in vision, they make up for in smell and hearing. They rely on their strong sense of smell to keep a track of their surroundings.
8. Communicate through Sound and Poop
Rhinos can make many noises to communicate. During fights, they growl and make ‘trumpet calls’. Black rhinos snort when they’re angry, make sneeze-like calls as alarms, scream if they’re scared and ‘mmwonk’ when relaxed.
Apart from sounds, they also communicate through poop and urine! Each individual’s dung smell is unique and by the smell of poop they get to know who all are in their area.
9. Thick but Sensitive Skin
Rhino’s skin is prone to get sunburnt. As such, to protect their skin, they cover it with muck. The mud dries on their skin, keeps it cool and also protects it from getting burnt.
10. Hang Out with Oxpeckers
Oxpeckers are birds which are commonly seen on a Rhino’s back. It is a symbiotic relationship where the birds live off the pesky parasitic insects living in the rhino’s thick skin. The birds’ loud cries also help alert their big buddies of potential danger, too!