Rhinoceros: Habitat, Behavior, and Diet (2023)

There are five species of Rhinoceroses—Ceratotherium simum, Diceros bicornis, Rhinoceros unicornis, R. sondaicos, Dicerorhinus sumatrensis—and for the most part, they live in widely separated ranges. By most counts, there are less than 30,000 rhinoceroses alive today, a steep plunge in population for a mammal that has existed on the earth, in one form or another, for 50 million years.

Fast Facts: Rhinoceros

Scientific Name: Five species are Ceratotherium simum, Diceros bicornis, Rhinoceros unicornis, R. sondaicos, Dicerorhinus sumatrensis

Common Name: White, Black, Indian, Javan, Sumatran

Basic Animal Group: Mammal

Size: 4–15 feet tall, 7–15 feet long, depending on species

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Weight: 1,000–5,000 pounds

Lifespan: 10–45 years

Diet:Herbivore

Habitat: Subharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Indian subcontinent

Population: 30,000

Conservation Status: Three species are Critically Endangered (Javan, Sumatran, black), one is Vulnerable (Indian), one is Near Threatened (white)

Description

Rhinoceroses are perissodactyls, or odd-toed ungulates, a family of mammals characterized by their herbivorous diets, relatively simple stomachs, and ​an odd number of toes on their feet (one or three). The only other perissodactyls on earth today are horses, zebras, and donkeys (all belonging to genus Equus), and the strange, pig-like mammals known as tapirs.Rhinoceroses are characterized by their large sizes, quadrupedal postures, and single or doublehorns on the ends of their snouts—the name rhinoceros is Greek for "nose horn." These horns probably evolved as a sexually selected characteristic—that is, males with bigger, more prominent horns were more successful with females during mating season.

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Considering how big they are, rhinoceroses have unusually small brains—no more than a pound and a half in the largest individuals, and about five times smaller than a comparably sized elephant. That is a common attribute in animals which have elaborate anti-predator defenses like body armor: their "encephalization quotient" (the relative size of an animal's brain compared to the rest of its body) is low.

Rhinoceros: Habitat, Behavior, and Diet (1)

Species

There are five extant rhino species—the white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, Indian rhinoceros, Javan rhinoceros, and Sumatran rhinoceros.

The largest rhinoceros species, the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) consists of two subspecies—the southern white rhinoceros, which lives in the southernmost regions of Africa, and the northern white rhinoceros of central Africa. There are about 20,000 southern white rhinoceroses in the wild, the males of which weigh over two tons, but the northern white rhinoceros is on the brink of extinction, with a mere handful of individuals surviving in zoos and nature reserves. No one is quite sure why C. simum is called "white"—this may be a corruption of the Dutch word "wijd," which means "wide" (as in widespread), or because its horn is lighter than that of other rhinoceros species.

Actually brown or grey in color, the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) used to be widespread across southern and central Africa, but today its numbers have dwindled to about half those of the southern white rhinoceros. (In Greek, "bicornis" means "two-horned"; an adult black rhinoceros has a larger horn toward the front of its snout, and a narrower one directly behind.) Black rhinoceros adults rarely exceed two tons in weight, and they browse on shrubs rather than grazing on grass like their "white" cousins. There used to be a bewildering number of black rhinoceros subspecies, but today the International Union for the Conservation of Nature recognizes only three, all of them seriously endangered.

The Indian or greater one-horned rhinoceros, Rhinoceros unicornis, used to be thick on the ground in India and Pakistan until a combination of hunting and habitat destruction restricted its numbers to the puny 4,000 or so individuals alive today. Full-grown Indian rhinos weigh between three and four tons and are characterized by their long, thick, black horns, which are prized by unscrupulous poachers. On a historical note, the Indian rhinoceros was the first rhino to be seen in Europe, a single individual shipped to Lisbon in 1515. Plucked from its natural habitat, this unfortunate rhino quickly died, but not before it had been immortalized in a woodcut by Albrecht Durer, the sole reference point for Europeanenthusiasts until another Indian rhino arrived in England in 1683.

One of the rarest mammals in the entire world, the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicos) consists of a few dozen individuals living on the western edge of Java (the largest island in the Indonesian archipelago). This cousin of the Indian rhinoceros (same genus, different species) is slightly smaller, with a comparably smaller horn, which has not, sadly, prevented it from being hunted to near-extinction by poachers. The Javan rhinoceros used to be widespread across Indonesia and southeast Asia; one of the key factors in its decline was the Vietnam War, in which millions of acres of habitat were destroyed by incendiary bombing and poisoning of vegetation by the herbicide called Agent Orange.

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Also known as the hairy rhinoceros, the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is almost as endangered as the Javan rhinoceros, with which it once shared the same territory of Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Adults of this species rarely exceed 2,000 pounds in weight, making it the smallest living rhinoceros. Unfortunately, as with the Javan rhinoceros, the relatively short horn of the Sumatran rhinoceros hasn't spared it from the depredations of poachers: The powdered horn of a Sumatran rhino commands over $30,000 per kilogram on the black market. Not only is D. sumatrensis the smallest rhino, but it's also the most mysterious. This is by far the most vocal rhino species and herd members communicate with one another via yelps, moans, and whistles.

Habitat and Range

Rhinoceroses are native to Subharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Indian subcontinent, depending on their species. They live in a variety of habitats, including tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands, tropical moist forests, and deserts and xeric shrublands.

Diet

Rhinos are all herbivores, but their diets depend on their habitat: Sumatran and Javan rhinos feed on tropical vegetation, including some fruits, while black rhinoceros are primarily browsers that feed on herbs and shrubs, and Indian rhinos feed on both grasses and aquatic plants.

They require a great deal of time to forage and spend most of their active time doing that. Rhinos can be active day or night and generally regulate their activity depending on the weather. If it's too hot or too cold, they will stay near water.

Behavior

If there's one place the average person does not want to be, it's in the path of a stampeding rhino. When startled, this animal can hit top speeds of 30 miles per hour, and it's not exactly equipped to stop on a dime (which may be one reason rhinos evolved their nasal horns as they can absorb unexpected impacts with stationary trees). Because rhinos are basically solitary animals, and because they have become so thin on the ground, it's rare to see a true "crash" (as a group of rhinos is called), but this phenomenon has been known to occur around watering holes. Rhinos also have poorer eyesight than most animals, another reason not to linger in the path of a four-ton male on your next African safari.

The closest rhinoceros bond is between a mother and her offspring. Bachelor rhinos congregate in small crashes of three to five, and sometimes as many as 10, to cooperate against predators. Rhinos may also gather around limited resources, water pools, wallows, feeding areas, and salt licks, always staying one body length apart.

Reproduction and Offspring

All rhinoceroses are polygamous and polyandrous—both sexes seek multiple mates. Courting and mating can occur at any time during the day. During courtship, males engage in mate-guarding behavior until the female is in full estrus and will permit males to approach her. Indian male rhinos whistle loudly to announce reproductive condition and location, six to 10 hours before breeding activity.

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Gestation takes 15–16 months, and by two months of age, calves are weaned and may be left alone while the female forager a few feet away. When separated temporarily, the female and her calves stay in contact through vocalizations. Calves suckle until the calf is two or the mother conceives again; they become completely independent at three years. Females become sexually mature at 5–7, and males at 10 years. Rhinos typically live between 10 and 45 years, depending on the species.

Rhinoceros: Habitat, Behavior, and Diet (2)

Evolutionary History

Researchers trace the evolutionary lineage of modern rhinoceroses back 50 million years, to small, pig-sized ancestors that originated in Eurasia and later spread to North America. A good example is Menoceras, a tiny, four-footed plant-eater that sported a pair of small horns. The North American branch of this family went extinct about five million years ago, but rhinos continued to live in Europe until the end of the last Ice Age (at which point Coelodonta, also known as the woolly rhino, went extinct along with its fellow mammalian megafaunas like the woolly mammoth and the saber-toothed tiger). One recent rhinoceros ancestor, Elasmotherium, may even have inspired the unicorn myth, as its single, prominent horn struck awe in early human populations.

Rhinoceros: Habitat, Behavior, and Diet (3)

Conservation Status

All of the five species of rhinoceroses are listed as endangered or vulnerable ty the IUCN. Three are listed as Critically Endangered (Javan, Sumatran, and black rhinos); one is Vulnerable (Indian), and one is Near Threatened (white).

Rhinoceros: Habitat, Behavior, and Diet (4)

Threats

Rhinoceroses have been continually driven relentlessly to the brink of extinction by human poachers. What these hunters are after is rhino horns, which, when ground up into powder, are valued in the east as aphrodisiacs (today, the largest market for powdered rhino horn is in Vietnam, as Chinese authorities have recently cracked down on this illicit trade). What's ironic is that the horn of a rhinoceros is composed entirely of keratin, the same substance that makes up human hair and fingernails. Rather than continuing to drive these majestic animals into extinction, perhaps poachers can be convinced to grind up their toenail clippings and see if anyone notices the difference!

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Sources

FAQs

What is the habitat of rhinos? ›

Most wild African rhinos are now found in just four countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. We work to protect a number of their natural habitats including Mau-Mara-Serengeti and coastal Tanzania. They mainly roam grassland and open savannah.

What is a rhinos behavior? ›

Besides mating and raising calves, most rhinos are solitary animals with limited tolerance for others- the exception being the White rhino. While not unusual to see a lone white rhino male or a single female and calf, they are the most gregarious of the 5 rhino species and can often be seen in groups of up to 15.

What is a rhino's diet? ›

Rhinos are herbivores who rely on a variety of plants for nourishment. In their natural habitat, these gigantic herbivores graze mostly on grass and the fruit and leaves of shrubs and trees. As grazers, as they eat continuously, rather than at specific times.

How does a rhino survive in its habitat? ›

Black rhinos have a number of adaptations that help them survive in their environment, including an upper lip that is prehensile, which means the rhino can use it almost like a hand and which sets them apart from white rhinos. They also have thick skin and can rotate their ears.

What is the natural habitat of the black rhino? ›

The black rhino lives in Africa, primarily in grasslands, savannahs and tropical bush lands. There are three black rhino sub-species.

How much do rhinos eat? ›

“How I live there”

White rhinos are very large animals that must eat up to 120 pounds of grass per day to sustain themselves. They will drink whenever and wherever they can find water but can survive up to five days without it.

What plants do rhinos eat? ›

These animals eat mostly short grasses that grow up to about 5 or 6 inches high. They eat mostly low-energy grasses like Pennisetum, Panicum maximum and Digiteria. In zoo environments they can eat hays made from alfalfa plants.

What is special about rhino? ›

2) These brilliant beasts are known for their awesome, giant horns that grow from their snouts – hence the name “rhinoceros', meaning “nose horn”. Javan and Indian rhinos have one horn, where as the white, black and Sumatran rhinos have two. 3) These incredible creatures are some of the biggest animals in world!

What vegetables do rhinos eat? ›

In zoological gardens most rhinos are fed a mixed diet of hay / straw, pellets (special formulated rhino pellets), cavalino (pressed hay), fruits (apples, bananas), vegetables (carrots, salads, etc.), grass, branches, and leaves.

Do rhinos eat meat? ›

All 5 species of rhinoceros are herbivores, only eating plants and other vegetation. Rhinos are browsers and grazers. Browsers tend to favor eating leaves and fruits from bushes and shrubs. Grazers, on the other hand, favor low-growing vegetation like grass.

How many hours do rhinos eat? ›

Rhinos are considered grazers, because they will eat constantly throughout the day, rather than having set meals. White rhinos can go up to five days without drinking, because they get some moisture from the grass they eat.

What animals eat rhinos? ›

The two species most often reported to prey upon rhinos – usually young ones – are lions in Africa and tigers in Asia. However, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs and Nile crocodiles are also known to kill African rhino calves on occasion. By far, though, people are rhinos' #1 enemy.

Why are rhino important to the environment? ›

Rhinos have been around for millions of years and play a crucial role in their ecosystem. They're important grazers, consuming large amounts of vegetation, which helps shape the African landscape. This benefits other animals and keeps a healthy balance within the ecosystem.

Where do rhinos sleep? ›

Rhinos sleep standing up or lying down and can sleep up to 8 hours a day at intervals. They can be found dozing under a tree during a hot day, but when they take a deep sleep, they lie down with their feet curled up slightly to the one side.

How strong is rhino? ›

Superhuman Strength: The Rhino possesses extreme superhuman strength. The Rhino is able to lift more than 75 tons and up to 100 tons with his suit on.

Are rhinos smart animals? ›

Rhinos are intelligent, social, emotional animals that are a vital part of Africa's tourism industry and its legacy. Recently, the Western black rhino was declared extinct by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

Are rhinos friendly? ›

Rhinos can be protective, but they are rarely aggressive if unprovoked. Rhinos prefer to roam unhindered and undisturbed. However, if they perceive a threat, they may defend themselves by charging. Female rhinos are often very protective of their calves.

What Colour is a rhino? ›

All rhinos are essentially grayish-brown, but often take on the color of the surrounding substrate.

How does a rhino move? ›

An Indian rhino can move very quickly when aroused. Their charges have been clocked at 30 miles an hour. Despite their bulk, they are nimble and can jump or change direction quickly. The Indian rhino is a grazer that travels established, tunnel-like paths through its tall-grass habitat.

How much does a black rhino need to eat? ›

With an average body mass of > 1000 kg, rhinos spend > 1/3 of day (and much of night) eating, consuming up to 2.5% of body mass daily.

How much water do rhinos drink? ›

The white rhinoceros is dependent on water and will drink up to 72 litres per day if water is available. White rhinoceros are, however, capable of going without water for up to four days. One male for every two females.

Do rhinos eat wood? ›

Their broad lips are instrumental in this kind of diet. They also eat stems, seeds, grains, wood bark, nuts, pollen, flowers, and sap. The white rhino is the largest of all the rhino species, and it has two subspecies, the northern white rhino, and its southern counterpart. The white rhino is native to Africa.

Do rhinos chew their food? ›

Exploring the Diet of a Rhino

Browsing species, like the black rhino, feed on foliage torn from bushes and trees. They also pick at seasonal fruits from high up branches and chew on twigs and bark.

What fruit can rhinos eat? ›

Rhinos do love to eat various fruit types. Typically, they only eat fruits they find in their natural environment but they can also be offered other fruit types. Rhinos are fond of figs, mangos, berries, apples, and many others.

What do rhinos eat for kids? ›

The only hair on rhinoceroses is at the tip of the tail and on the ears. The animals cannot see well, but they have a good sense of hearing and smell. They eat grass, reeds, and twigs.

Do rhinos eat bamboo? ›

Diet and behavior

Sumatran rhinos are solitary creatures that feed on fruit, twigs, leaves, and shrubs. Their favorite foods include wild mangoes, bamboos, and figs.

What is Rhino skin called? ›

Abstract. The collagenous dermis of the white rhinoceros forms a thick, protective armour that is highly specialized in its structure and material properties compared with other mammalian skin.

Does a rhino have 2 Hearts? ›

No a rhino does not have two hearts.

What is Rhino skin used for? ›

Rhino Skin (Potassium Silicate) Protect your plants WITHOUT using poisons or pesticides! Advanced Nutrients Rhino Skin provides additional silica to strengthen your plant's stems, leaves and floral structures.

What do baby rhinos eat? ›

As grazers, they eat grass and other low-lying vegetation. Another name for this species is the square-lipped rhinoceros, and you can see why. It holds its large head close to the ground and hoovers up grass.

Do lions eat rhinos? ›

Lions are known to selectively prey on the black rhinoceros — and those that are most selective are generally the lions that live the longest. While lions are known to hunt down rhino calves, attempts to take down fully grown rhinos are rare even when there's an entire pride of lions at work.

What good is a rhino? ›

They have been around for millions of years and their only real threat is humans. Rhinos are gentle creatures that do not harm us, they benefit other species, habitats and communities just by being rhinos. Rhinos benefit mankind because of the natural resources within the rhino habitat with food, fuel, and income.

Are rhinos fast? ›

4) Rhinos Are Fast, Really Fast

Rhinos can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. The world's fastest humans, by comparison, only reach speeds of 28 miles per hour in a short 100-meter sprint. Interestingly, while running their top speed, rhinos run on their toes.

Do rhinos eat rats? ›

There are five different types of rhinos (the Indian rhino, the Sumatran rhino, the Javan rhino, the white rhino, and the black rhino), and every single one of these rhinos is a herbivore. This means that rhinos only eat plant matter and never eat meat. RELATED: Can Rhinos Swim, Jump, Or Walk Backward?

Can rhinos eat grass? ›

White rhinoceros feed almost exclusively on short grasses.

Which animal milk is black? ›

This is an Expert-Verified Answer

The female black rhinoceros or Diceros bicornis give black milk. Explanation: Black milk is the slimmest milk containing very little amount of fat (0.2%) is produced by Black rhinoceros.

Do rhinos need water? ›

They have the ability to gallop at 25 to 30 mph. A white rhino will drink twice a day if water is available, but if conditions are dry it can live for four or five days without drinking. Dominant bulls mark their territory with excrement and urine.

What color is rhino milk? ›

The milk of the Indian rhinoceros was ivory white and aromatic. The appearance of 19-mo lactation milk in the African black rhinoceros was reported to be white and watery.

Is a rhino a dinosaur? ›

Rhinos are not related to dinosaurs, even remotely. The biggest difference is that rhinos are mammals and dinosaurs are considered reptiles.

Which animal Cannot jump? ›

In the case of the elephant, in fact, it's impossible. Unlike most mammals, the bones in elephant legs are all pointed downwards, which means they don't have the "spring" required to push off the ground.

Can rhino live without horn? ›

There have been several other successful cases across Africa. Rhinos dehorned in recent years in certain Zimbabwe Lowveld conservancies appear to have a 29.1% higher chance of surviving than horned animals.

What is the value of rhinos? ›

In South Africa, which has 25,000 remaining black and white rhinos, the "sale value of a single living rhino" is about 350,000 Rand, or a bit more than $29,000. This number comes from the Endangered Wildlife Trust, a South African environmental organization.

How big is a rhino? ›

On average, their height is 5.2 feet and their weight is between 1,720 and 3,080 pounds. The white rhino is the larger African species, weighing 3,080 between and 7,920 pounds and standing at a height between 5 and 6 feet. Javan rhinos are 4.6 to 5.8 feet in height and can weigh between 1,984 and 5,071 pounds.

How does a rhino sleep? ›

Rhinos are able to sleep standing up or lying down. When they take a deep sleep, they an be found lying down with their feet curled up slightly to the one side.

What is rhino horn used for? ›

Rhino horn is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, but increasingly common is its use as a status symbol to display success and wealth. Poaching is now a threat in all rhino range states, however, as South Africa is home to the majority of rhinos in the world, it is being heavily targeted.

What is the home of rhinoceros called? ›

The Indian state of Assam is home to the largest population of greater-one horned rhinos, with more than 90% in Kaziranga National Park.

How many white rhinos are left 2022? ›

There are only two northern white rhinos left in the world, both female. Yet there is still hope that we can preserve their lineage. Your support today could help offer a lifeline for the world's rarest mammal.

Are rhinos found in a forest? ›

Black and white rhinos are found in Africa whilst the Indian, Sumatran and Javan rhino are found in Asia. They usually live in grasslands, woodlands, swamps and forests.

Are rhinos in the rainforest? ›

The Bornean rhinoceros, like most rhinos, is a solitary animal that lives in dense rainforest and swamps.

Where does the rhino live and eat? ›

Rhinos tend to live where they like to eat.

It can be found in various habitats that have dense, woody vegetation. The white rhino lives in savannas, which have water holes, mud wallows, shade trees, and the grasses they graze on.

Where do rhinos sleep? ›

Rhinos sleep standing up or lying down and can sleep up to 8 hours a day at intervals. They can be found dozing under a tree during a hot day, but when they take a deep sleep, they lie down with their feet curled up slightly to the one side.

How do rhinos move? ›

An Indian rhino can move very quickly when aroused. Their charges have been clocked at 30 miles an hour. Despite their bulk, they are nimble and can jump or change direction quickly. The Indian rhino is a grazer that travels established, tunnel-like paths through its tall-grass habitat.

Are rhinos dinosaurs? ›

Rhinos are not related to dinosaurs, even remotely. The biggest difference is that rhinos are mammals and dinosaurs are considered reptiles.

How many rhinos are in the world? ›

Greater one-horned rhinos have made a startling comeback from the brink of extinction. By 1900, fewer than 200 individuals remained, but there are now more than 4,000 individuals, due to concerted conservation efforts in both India and Nepal; their remaining strongholds.
...
Rhino speciesPopulation
White rhino15,942
4 more rows

How many tigers are left? ›

Tigers are endangered, with 8,000 kept in captivity and 5,000 living in the wild. There are about 13,000 tigers left in the world. Unfortunately most live in captivity. There are around 5,000 tigers left in the wild, but they're spread out from India, to Russia, down to Southeast Asia.

Are rhino water animals? ›

Greater one-horned rhino

Greater one-horned rhinos are semi-aquatic and often take up residence in swamps, forests and riversides.

Do rhinos go in water? ›

Greater one-horned rhinos can swim, and even dive underwater.

What color is a rhino? ›

All rhinos are essentially grayish-brown, but often take on the color of the surrounding substrate.

Is there a Red rhino? ›

In an article published in the journal African Mammals Lord Rataxes has revealed that the image (above) taken in Kwandwe Game Reserve, South Africa, indicates that a red rhino species does exist.

How many rhinos are left? ›

In the early 20th century, there were about 500,000 rhinos in Asia and Africa, according to the World Wildlife Fund. However, by 1970, rhino numbers dropped to 70,000, and today, around 27,000 rhinos remain in the wild. There are five different species of rhinos.

Are rhinos born with fur? ›

Calves are born with a dense covering that turns reddish-brown in young adults and becomes sparse, bristly and almost black in older animals.

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