12 amazing rhino facts you might not know

Discover fascinating facts about these large herbivores.

Desert Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis). Addo Elephant National Park; Eastern Cape; South Africa. Critically endangered species

A black rhino in Addo National Park, South Africa © Mark Carwardine / Getty

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1. Two Greek words, ‘rhino’ meaning nose and ‘ceros’ meaning horn combine to create the word rhinoceros.

2. A group of rhinos is called a crash.

3. There are five extant species of rhino – white and black (found in Africa), Indian, Javan, and Sumatran (found in southern Asia). 

The white rhino name likely derives from the Dutch word ‘wijd’ meaning wide, which refers to the animal’s wide mouth, whilst the black rhino was so-named to distinguish it from the white rhino.

Browsing
Way Kambas National Park, Lampung Province, southern Sumatra, Indonesia
Critically endangered - fewer than 200 left
Captive - Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary within the park

A Sumatran rhino in captivity, in Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, Way Kambas National Park, Indonesia © Mark Carwardine / Getty

4. The black, Javan and Sumatran species are browsers, wrapping their prehensile upper lip around leaves and twigs when foraging. White and India rhinos are considered to be grazers.

5. Rhinos are part of a group of animals called Perissodactyla, which are odd-toed ungulates. There are only three extant animal famillies in this group – Rhinocerotidae (rhinos), Equidae (horses, zebras and asses) and Tapiridae (tapirs). 

6. Rhinos have between 24 to 34 teeth, depending on the species.

7. Rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance that makes up our nails and hair. It has no medical properties despite being used in traditional Asian medicine. 

Click here to view our gallery of the legal dehorning of a black rhino in South Africa

8. Rhinos have fantastic hearing and a great sense of smell, but have terrible eyesight. They will struggle to spot something further than 30m away. 

9. Rhinos love wallowing. By covering themselves with mud and letting it dry they are protecting their skin from the sun. Rhinos will rub their bodies against tree trunks and rocks to remove ectoparasites, such as ticks, which have become stuck in the dry mud on their skin. 

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White rhinocerous in Etosha National Park, Namibia, during the dry season © Manuel Romaris / Getty

10. Rhino gestation lasts between 15 and 16 months, usually giving birth to just one calf (twins are very rare). Young rhinos will remain with their mothers until they are between two or three years old. 

11. Rhino home ranges are marked with dung heaps called middens that are used by both male and females to communicate their whereabouts and reproductive condition.

12. Oxpeckers have a symbiotic relationship with rhinos. Rhinos have a host of ectoparasites on their hide that the birds eat, keeping the rhino free of parasites. The oxpeckers can also raise the alarm, warning the rhino if any danger is about.

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Red-billed oxpeckers on a black rhino © Martin Harvey / Getty

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Discover more amazing wildlife facts in BBC Wildlife Magazine