Rhinoceroses get their name from their horns. The word rhinoceros comes from the Greek rhino (nose) and ceros (horn). Rhino horns are made of keratin, like our fingernails and hair.
A large herbivore and “odd-toed ungulate,” rhinoceros are related to horses and zebra, and tapir. Rhinos are known for their bad eyesight, good hearing, and that they like to roll in mud. Often you’ll see an oxpicker or “tick bird” with African rhinoceros—they warn of danger and eat the ticks off of the rhino.
There are five types of rhinos: black, white, Sumatran, Javan, and Indian. Black and white rhinoceros come from Africa. Both are the same color—brownish gray. It is thought that the white rhino got its name from the Dutch word for wide (wijde or weit) since they have a wide mouth. White rhino graze on grasses, while black rhino with their “hooked lip” can eat plant shoots, shrubs and leaves.
The other three types of rhino are all from Asia. Indian and Javan rhinoceros look like they have heavy plates, but it is the folds in their skin that give them the “plated” look. Javan rhinos are smaller than Indian rhinos.
Sumatran rhinos are the smallest of the species, weighing in at “only” 1750 pounds. A white rhino can weigh in at 5000 pounds. Even baby rhinos are good-sized, ranging from 88 to 140 pounds, depending on which type of rhinoceros.
Rhinoceros can live 40 to 45 years. Males are full grown at 7-10 years, while females reach maturity earlier at 5-7 years. The only predators rhino have are humans.
Ogden Nash wrote a poem about rhinos:
The rhino is a homely beast,
For human eyes he's not a feast.
Farewell, farewell, you old rhinoceros,
I'll stare at something less prepoceros.
Fun Rhinoceros Facts
- One lump or two? Javan and Indian rhinos only have one horn. White, black and Sumatran rhinoceros have two.
- Rhinos aren’t really bad tempered—they often charge because they are startled.
- Sumatran rhinoceros are hairy—at least compared to the other species of rhinos. Next to the Javan rhino, they are the most endangered.
- A group of rhinos is called a “crash.”
- Rhinoceros roll in mud so they don’t get sunburned.
- A rhino dung pile can be 3 feet high!
African Wildlife Foundation
International Rhino Foundation
San Diego Zoo