Rhinoceroses are known for the horns on their noses. The name rhinoceros comes from two words that mean “nose” and “horn.” They use their horns to defend themselves. The largest rhinoceros horn on record was 5 feet (1.6 meters) long!
HOW BIG IS A RHINOCEROS?
People often compare the rhinoceros, or rhino, to a tank. Rhinos are one of the biggest land animals. Hippos are bigger, but they live mostly in water. Giraffes are taller, but not as heavy. Overall, the rhino ranks second only to the elephant in size.
A rhinoceros can weigh as much as 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) and grow to 13 feet (4 meters) in length! Anyone in the path of a charging rhinoceros is in trouble. Rhinos are so heavy, they can’t stop quickly, even if they try.
The ancestors of modern rhinos included some of the biggest mammals that ever lived. One weighed 20 tons! Long ago, when Earth was colder, many rhinos had shaggy coats. These wooly rhinos died out 15,000 years ago, when the Earth began warming up again. Today’s rhinos have thick, gray, nearly hairless skin.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF RHINOS
There are five types of rhinoceroses. Two types, the white rhino and the black rhino, live in Africa. Both types of African rhinos have two horns. Their front horn is much longer than the one farther back along their noses.
White rhinos are not really white. Their name comes from the Dutch word weit, which means “wide.” They got this name because they are so big. White rhinos are the largest type of rhino. They are peaceful animals. People can pat one on the head. Black rhinos are somewhat smaller but more aggressive. They sometimes charge at people who get too close.
Another type of rhinoceros lives in India. The skin of an Indian rhino forms loose folds, as if it is too big for the animal’s body. Its skin also has bumps that look like fasteners holding pieces of skin together. This skin reminds many people of armor.
Slightly smaller types of rhinos live on the islands of Java and Sumatra in the Indian Ocean.
LIFE AS A RHINO
A rhinoceros does not like company. It spends its days alone, eating leaves, branches, and grass. When two rhinos meet, they often fight.
During mating season, male and female rhinoceroses are very suspicious of each other. The male rhino tries to attract a female by making a certain noise. Usually, the female rhino charges and drives him away. He comes back, however, and tries again. It may take days or even weeks for two rhinos to get together.
ARE RHINOS GETTING SCARCE?
People hunt rhinos for their horns. Some people think a medicine can be made from these horns. Once there were millions of rhinos. Now there are only about 16,000 left.
Laws have been passed to protect rhinos. The numbers of white rhinos and Indian rhinos have begun to rise. Even so, rhinos remain in trouble. That’s because they live in the grasslands found at the edges of forests. As forests shrink, so does land suitable for rhinos. There are only about 300 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild. The Java rhino is down to fewer than 60. By the time you read this, they may all be gone.
Source: Microsoft ® Encarta