Rhinoceros (animal) – Information, habitat and characteristics

We explain everything about rhinos, what they eat, their reproduction and other characteristics. Also, why is it in danger of extinction.

African rhinos have two horns, but the Indian and Javanese have only one.

What is a rhinoceros?

It is known as rhinos or abadas to certain large herbivorous and quadruped mammal species, endowed with a thick and hard skin, crowned by a single keratin horn in the middle of the muzzle.

In fact, his horn is his most distinctive feature, to the point that it appears at the origin of its name (from the Greek voices rhino, “Nose”, and kera, “Horn”) and has constituted a precious hunting trophy, throughout the decades that it has taken humans to bring this animal to the brink of extinction.

They are solitary and very territorial animals, especially males, whose horns are used to confront each other when competing for the right to mate or for control of a certain habitat.

There are five species of rhinos, all zoologically classified within the family Rhinocerontidae:

  • The white rhino (Ceratotherium simum)
  • The Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)
  • The Java Rhino (Rhinoceros probeicus)
  • The Indian rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis)
  • The black rhinoDiceros bicornis).

An extinct species of woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis), which was common in Europe and northern Asia during the last ice age.

These animals are estimated to have evolved evolutionarily in the late Eocene, about 56 million years ago, somewhere in Eurasia. Over the centuries they went from being small and numerous animals, to becoming the true colossi that they are today, the only living representatives (along with elephants and hippos) of the megafauna of the Pleistocene or Holocene.

Rhinoceros characteristics

rhinoceros skin characteristics
Rhinoceros skin is made up of overlapping layers of collagen, without hairs.

In general, rhinos are characterized by the following:

  • They are large quadruped animals, which range from one to four tons in weight, and have an average body length of 1.70 meters. Their skin is particularly thick, between 1.5 and 5 cm thick, and is composed of superimposed layers of collagen, without hair.
  • The horn on the animal’s snout is made of keratin, without bone components. African rhinos have two horns, while Indian and Javanese have only one. These bumps are highly sought after commercially as an aphrodisiac or traditional remedy.
  • They have relatively small brains for their immense size (barely between 400 and 600 g. of encephalic mass), and they are very unsociable animals, which come together only during youth (especially between mothers and young), and during the mating season.
  • They have a very acute sense of smell and hearing, to compensate for a rather poor vision, with his eyes located on the sides of the head. Instead their ears are tube-shaped and can move independently towards sound sources.
  • Its coloration tends to vary in shades of gray and brown.

Where do rhinos live?

In prehistoric times, rhinos spread throughout much of the world, and They came to inhabit North America and Europe until around 10,000 years ago, when many species were hunted to near extinction by primitive humanity.

At present they can only be observed in Africa (South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Tanzania, depending on the species) and in some regions of South Asia (India, Nepal, Assam, Indonesia, Vietnam, Burma, Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo, depending on the species).

What do rhinos eat?

rhinoceros feeding
Rhinos eat leaves, but they can also feed on roots, stems, and branches.

Rhinos they are entirely herbivorous animals. Their diet is mainly made up of leaves, but they can also subsist on roots, stems and branches that ferment effectively in their colon. They have powerful molars and premolars with which to crush the plant fiber and some species have a more or less prehensile frontal region of the snout.

How do rhinos reproduce?

rhinoceros reproduction
Rhinos have only one calf per birth.

Like all other mammals, rhinos reproduce sexually and viviparously. Males compete for females by smashing their horns and often injuring themselves in the process, until one wins the right to the female. Pregnancies usually last a year and a half, and shed a single calf per parturition, which at birth weighs about 65 to 40 kilograms. This can happen at any time of the year.

How long do rhinos live?

The life expectancy of a rhino It can vary according to its species, but it is estimated that in the wild it ranges between 40 and 50 years, although cases of greater longevity have been registered, although not by too much.

Is the rhino in danger of extinction?

According to data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), most Asian species of rhinoceros (the one from Java, Sumatra and the black rhino) are critically endangered, while the Indian rhinoceros is in the previous rung, that is, in danger of extinction. Its hunting is prohibited and important efforts are made to preserve the existing populations of the species.

For its part, the white rhinoceros presents very different states of conservation depending on which of its two subspecies one refers to. The northern subspecies, Ceratotherium simum cottoniResident exclusively in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other nearby regions such as Sudan, it is critically endangered, since of the three specimens that remained in custody in 2015, the only male died in 2018.

Instead, the southern subspecies, Ceratotherium simum simum, is classified as “near threatened” by international ecological organizations, with an estimated population of 20,150 animals in 2011, which represents a significant improvement compared to the thousand specimens that were counted at the beginning of the 20th century.