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How Many Kinds of Rhinos are There?

By B Sumangal; Illustration by Anup Singh

A modern day rhino or rhinoceros looks pretty much like its ancestor that existed on earth more than 30 million years ago.

Its status as an animal "biggie" hasn't changed much either. The ancestors of the modern-day rhinoceros - the 4 feet tall Uintatherium and the 15 feet high Indricotherium - were the largest land mammals ever. Today's rhino is the largest living land mammal, after the African elephant, in terms of size and weight.

The name 'rhinoceros' is derived from two Greek words 'rhino' meaning 'nose' and 'keros' meaning 'horned'.

How Many Kinds of Rhinos are There?, 5W&H for kids: 35_1.gif There are five different kinds of rhinoceroses in the world. Two of these are found in Africa and three in Asia. The two African varieties are the black and white. The Asian varieties are found in India, Java and Sumatra.

The largest rhino is the African white, measuring six feet high at the shoulder and weighing over four tonnes. The smallest is the Sumatran rhino, standing at about four-and-a-half feet at the shoulder and weighing less than a tonne.

This powerful animal has one or two curved horns, which grow on top of its nose. The African and the Sumatran varieties have two horns, while the Indian and Javan rhinos have only one horn. White rhinos have larger horns, which can grow up to five feet in length!

Rhino horns are entirely replaceable. They are made up of hair-like growth that thickens and grows above the nasal and the frontal bones. The horns are not attached to the skull and may even be torn off during a fight. When this happens, the horn grows back again.

Rhinoceroses are herbivores or plant eaters. They are shy and solitary and love to wallow in a muddy pool to beat the heat of the day. As they stomp out of the pool, they have a thick layer of mud, which on drying keeps the rhino cool and also protects the animal against insect bites.

While all rhinos have thick hides, the Indian variety, which is found in the northeastern state of Assam, is distinguished with pleated skin that looks like armour plating. At first appearance, when their hides are clean, both the white and black African rhinos look very similar and confusingly have the same colour - grey.

However their feeding habits differ. The white rhino is a grazer and eats ground plants and grass. So it has a wide, flat mouth. The term 'white' has nothing to do with its colour. It is a corruption of the Afrikaans word (language of South Africa) "wit" meaning "wide" rhino.

The black rhino is a browser. It feeds on leaves plucked from shrubs and bushes. So it has a hook-like upper lip.

Rhinos belongs to the 'odd-toed' group of ungulates (hoofed animals). They have three toes on each foot, each toe ending in a separate hoof. Each front foot actually also has a fourth toe that is no longer used.

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How Many Kinds of Rhinos are There? [5W&H for kids]
By B Sumangal; Illustration by Anup Singh

 

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