Everything you need to know about these awesome mammals.
Rhinos—with their awe-inducing presence and unique appearance—are some of the most fascinating animals on the planet. They’re massive and look prehistoric, almost as if you’re looking at a dinosaur in real time. And sadly, their fate is bordering on that of the dino as they are one of the most threatened species on the planet. To celebrate the majestic mammal of World Rhino Day (September 22), here are 15 amazing facts about the creatures.
There is more than just one type
There are a total of five different kinds of rhinos. And while you may think of them wandering through Africa, they’re also found throughout Asia. The types are the Black rhino and the White rhino—they live in Africa—and the Sumatran, Javan, and Indian (or greater one-horned) rhino—they live in the tropical forests and swamps of Asia. They are native to eastern and southern Africa, as well as India, Nepal, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Their name is literal
Rhinos are famous for their horns, and they were named for their signature feature. But the moniker isn’t super creative. The word rhinoceros is a literal mix of two Greek words that best describe how they look: rhino (nose) and ceros (horn).
Rhino horns are used as medicine
Doctors in Asia have been using powdered rhino horn in their medicine for centuries. While there is no evidence or studies that prove it truly has curing powers, rhino horn is still sought after. According to the International Rhino Foundation, it’s been used to treat and cure a number of maladies, including: aging, arthritis, asthma, chest cold, chicken pox, convulsions, coughs, demonic possession, diphtheria, and a laundry list of other illnesses.
Rhino horns are made of keratin
You might think that rhino horns are made of super tough bone, but it’s actually made up of the protein keratin—the same stuff that makes up human hair and fingernails—and is basically a compacted mass that grows throughout the rhino’s life. The longest rhino horn ever measured was just under 1.5 meters, according to the International Rhino Foundation.
A group of rhinos possess an awesome name
For the most part, rhinoceroses are solitary animals and pretty much avoid one another. But some species, particularly the white rhino, can live in groups, known as a “crash.” They’re usually made up of a female and her calves, although sometimes other adult females hang in a crash, too.
White Rhinos are the third largest land mammal
White rhinoceros are the third largest land mammal after the African and Asian elephants. The white rhinoceros is also the largest rhinoceros species and can weigh up to 2700 kilograms. Their heads alone can weight up to 900 kilograms, and they’re typically between 1.5 and 1.6 meters tall.
Rhinos are herbivores
For their size, you’d suspect that they’re big meat eaters. But they’re vegetarians that can eat up to 45 kilograms of food a day. Depending on the species, they eat leaves, fruit, grasses, stems, and twigs.
Not all rhinos use their horns to fight.
You’d think that having a huge weapon right on your face would be an obvious instrument for battle, but some rhinos actually use their teeth when they need to in a fight. The three Asian species (Sumatran, Javan, and Indian) use their lower outer incisor teeth instead of their horns. The teeth of Indian rhinoceroses can reach 12 centimetre’s in length, leaving a nasty mark if used to fight off other rhinos or predators. But the African species (the Black rhino and the White rhino) don’t have these long incisors and do fight with their horns.
They also leave massive dumps
Rhinos can produce as much as 22 kilograms of dung a day, according to the International Rhino Foundation. Their poop also plays a big role in marking their territory as each rhino’s poop has a unique smell, and male rhinos utilize it to keep others off their area. They can make between 20 to 30 piles to make sure that other rhinos know to stay away.
They have super sensitive skin
Even though they live in some of the hottest and sunniest climates, their skin isn’t that well equipped to handle it. Rhinos can sunburn easily and are also susceptible to bad bug bites. To remedy this, rhinos often take mud baths to put a protective layer between their skin and the sun and pestering bugs.
Rhinos are closely related to tapirs, horses, and zebras
While they don’t look like it, the closest living relatives to rhinos are these three animals (tapir pictured). These are also known as perissodactyls (or odd-toed ungulates). Rhinos have three toes on each foot, and their tracks are compared to the Ace of Clubs.
Rhinos use infrasonic frequencies to communicate
You likely won’t hear rhinos making noise because humans can’t hear it. Like elephants, rhinoceroses communicate using infrasonic frequencies that are below the human threshold of hearing. Researchers believe this technique has been adapted because they inhabit dense vegetation and use it to attract partners for breeding.
Rhino pregnancies last 15-16 months
You read that right—a full rhino pregnancy lasts more than a year-and-a-half. Rhinos only give birth to one calf a year, and baby rhinos rarely meet their fathers. Once female and male rhinos mate, they go their separate ways, and female rhinos raise their young.
Rhinos are super fast
Rhinos are bulky animals, but they are not slow. A black rhinoceros can run up to 48 kilometers per hour. And they’re also very agile, able to dodge trees and branches in thick brush and turn quickly.
Their numbers are dwindling
Today, it’s estimated that there is only a total of 29,000 rhinos left in the wild, compared to 500,000 at the beginning of the 20th century. Two species of rhino in Asia—Javan and Sumatran—are critically endangered. According to the World Wildlife Fund, here are the numbers for each species:
Javan Rhino: 58-68
Sumatran Rhino: 80
Greater One-Horned Rhino: >3,500
Black Rhino: 5,000
White Rhino: More than 20,000.
This article was written by Emily Shiffer and was published by Popular Mechanics on 17/09/2019