Genus and Species:
Diceros bicornis (black)
Ceratotherium simum (white)
Rhinoceros unicornis (greater one-horned)
Dicerorhinus sumatrensis (Sumatran)
Rhinoceros sondaicus (Javan)
Length: largest—white rhino, 12 to 13 feet (3.7 to 4 meters); smallest—Sumatran rhino, 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 meters)
Shoulder height: white rhino, up to 6 feet (1.8 meters); Sumatran rhino, up to 4.8 feet (145 centimeters)
Weight: white rhino, 5,000 pounds (2,300 kilograms); Sumatran rhino, 1,765 pounds (800 kilograms)
Life span: 40 to 45 years
Gestation: 15 to 16 months
Number of young at birth: 1
Size at birth: 88 to 140 pounds (40 to 64 kilograms), depending on the species
Age of maturity: males—7 to 8 years; females—5 to 6 years
Conservation status: black , Javan, and Sumatran rhinos are at critical risk; white and greater one-horned rhinos are endangered.
Don't be fooled by a rhino's lumbering
black rhino can thunder along at 40 miles per hour (64
kilometers per hour)!
A group of rhinos is sometimes called a “crash”—an appropriate term for a large and ponderous animal that can crash through just about anything in its way.
Rhinos may look indestructible, but their skin is actually quite sensitive, especially to sunburn and biting insects. That's why they like to wallow in mud.
White rhinos have a hump of muscle on their necks and shoulders to hold up a head that can weigh 800 to 1,000 pounds (362 to 454 kilograms)!
Do rhinos really put out fires in the wild? This is a popular legend that has inspired scenes in movies, descriptions in stories, and even the names of fire-fighting units, but there have been no actual recorded accounts of this happening.
Finding a way to mimic the way rhino horn forms and repairs itself could lead to better impact-resistant bumpers for cars!
- Where Are Those Rhinos?
- Cinco de Rhino
- Rhino Calf Makes Debut
- Preparing for a Rhino Debut
- Preparing for a Rhino Birth
Listen to a rhinoceros!
Listen to a female greater one-horned rhino's estrus whistle!
Range: white rhinos and black rhinos are found in small pockets of eastern and southern Africa; greater one-horned rhinos are found in northern India and southern Nepal; Sumatran rhinos and Javan rhinos are found in small areas of Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Rhinoceroses get their name from their most famous feature: their horns. The word rhinoceros comes from the Greek rhino (nose) and ceros (horn). For ages, rhino horn has been used to treat illnesses, especially fevers. Yet like our fingernails and hair, rhino horn is made of keratin and has no healing properties. In some countries, rhinos are being dehorned, a process that removes the valuable horn but leaves the animal alive and well. This prevents poachers from killing rhinos for the money their horns would bring.
The five types of rhinos are the Sumatran, Javan, black, white, and greater one-horned. Javan rhinos and greater one-horned rhinos have only one horn, while Sumatran rhinos, black rhinos, and white rhinos have two. What they all have in common are large heads, broad chests, thick legs, poor eyesight, excellent hearing, and a fondness for rolling in the mud. Because they are very nearsighted, they often charge when they are startled. This has given them an undeserved reputation for having a bad temper. All rhinos are herbivores, eating grasses or leaves, depending on the species. At the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the rhinos are fed hay and high-fiber biscuits, along with carrots and apples.
Black rhinos Diceros bicornis and white rhinos Ceratotherium simum are the same color—they're both brownish gray! How the white rhino came to be called “white” is uncertain. One account says that South Africa's early Boer settlers called it wijde, Dutch for “wide,” which could refer to the wide lip or the size of the animal. The wide mouth of the white rhino is perfect for grazing on grasses, while the more narrow, prehensile lip of the black rhino is great for pulling leaves and shrubs into its mouth. Other names used for these two rhinos are “broad-lipped” and "hook-lipped." Guess which name belongs to which rhino!
Meet the Asian rhinos
Greater one-horned rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis— The mouth of the greater one-horned rhino looks like a cross between broad-lipped and hook-lipped. Although it is fairly broad, it has a small prehensile lip. Many people describe these rhinos as armor-plated, but they are actually covered with a layer of skin that has many folds. They are native to swampy areas of Northeast India and Nepal. The International Rhino Foundation is working to increase this rhino's population in India. We are on our way to reaching our goal of 3,000 rhinos in India and Nepal by the year 2020.
Javan rhinoceros Rhinoceros sondaicus— Like the greater one-horned rhino, the Javan has a single horn. It is also called the lesser one-horned rhino. Javan rhinos are very rare in the heavily forested areas of Southeast Asia, and they are probably the rarest of the rhino species. Scientists have devised an interesting way of counting them. Throughout the rain forest, they have set up cameras with sensors. When the rhinos pass the sensor, the camera takes their picture! The scientists can then count them. Learning more about these jungle rhinos in the wild will help protect them from becoming extinct. Sadly, there are less than 50 Javan rhinos in the wild.
Sumatran rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis— This is the smallest and hairiest of the rhinos. Like the Javan rhino, it is critically endangered, with around 200 animals left in the world. Very little of its native habitat is left on the island of Sumatra. There has been little success in breeding this species in zoos.
Horns and poachers
News from researchers in the field is that about 200 of Africa's rhinos have been killed by poachers in 2010. In India, 19 rhinos were poached, and in Nepal, 11 rhinos were poached in 2010. The increasing price paid for rhino horn used for dagger handles in the Middle East and for medicinal uses in Asia continue to encourage poachers to kill these magnificent animals just for their horns. The San Diego Zoo continues to support rhino conservation in every country that these animals are currently found.
Greater one-horned rhino calf
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has the largest crash of rhinos and the most successful captive breeding program for rhinos anywhere in the world. When the worldwide population of southern white rhinos numbered less than 2,000, a male at the Park sired 50 babies! Many black rhinos and greater one-horned rhinos have also been born here. In fact, one of our youngest calves is a fifth-generation greater one-horned rhino, the first such birth in the world! We also provide support and funding for rhino conservation efforts in India.
The first black rhino born at the San Diego Zoo was named Werikhe in honor of Michael Werikhe, “the rhino man.” Mr. Werikhe was a Kenyan conservationist known for his long "rhino walks” to educate people about the plight of the rhino and to raise money to support rhino reserves. He is a good example of what one person can do to make a difference! And because all rhino species are now endangered, they need our help to survive.
Visiting the San Diego Zoo or the Safari Park helps support a conservation project for the southern white rhinoceros. Although reproduction in zoos has been successful in the past, most females born in captivity have not reproduced. New research hopes to solve this mystery once and for all. To do this, researchers are taking their questions to rhino facilities around the world and to preserves with wild and semi-wild rhinos in South Africa, where they hope to find the answers they need to prevent the zoo populations from becoming extinct.