Seeing a rhinoceros up close on safari for the first time is a thrilling experience. Many people travel across the world to Africa just to see these amazing creatures. Here are 15 things you didn’t know about this unique horned animal.
1. What’s in a name?
Rhinos get their name from the amalgamation of two Greek words – rhino (nose) and ceros (horn).
2. Five species of rhino
There are five species of rhinoceros alive on the planet today. White and black rhinos are found in Africa, while greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran rhinos roam in India and Asia.
3. It’s all about the horn
Rhinos have been poached to near extinction for their horns, but did you know the horn is not made of bone, but of keratin? This is the same stuff found in human hair and fingernails.
4. Horns never stops growing
Rhino horns are not attached to the animals’ skulls, and like hair or fingernails, they continue to grow throughout the animal’s life cycle. The longest rhino horn ever recorded belonged to a white rhino and measured just under five feet!
5. Closest relatives
It’s hard to believe, but rhinos are most closely related to zebras, horses and tapirs. All these species are known as odd-toed ungulates.
6. Look for the Ace of Clubs
When tracking rhinos, look for tracks resembling the Ace of Clubs card. Their footprints look this way because rhinos have three toes on each hoof.
7. It’s a crash!
Here’s some good party trivia: a group of rhinos is known as a crash.
8. Big poopers
A full grown white rhino can poo up to 50 pounds per day. Rhinos also use poop to find out about other rhinos — each rhino’s dung has its own personal odor!
9. It’s not black and white
If you’re looking for a white rhino on safari, don’t expect its name to match the animal’s actual color. White rhinos are not white. Instead the name comes from the Afrikaans word for “wide” and pertains to the animal’s mouth. Similarly black rhinos are not black. Both species are actually a grayish brown color.
10. Second-largest land mammal
Elephants are the largest land mammal on earth, followed by the white rhino. White rhinos can weigh more than 5,000 pounds, which is about the same weight as a Land Rover!
11. Knocked up for more than a year
Rhino mamas carry their babies for up to 16 months before giving birth — only elephants stay pregnant longer.
12. Dad’s not in the picture
Most wild rhino calves never get to meet their dads, as after mating, the males and females go their separate ways. Young rhinos stay with their mothers for around two years before becoming independent.
13. Critically endangered
In Africa, the black rhino is listed as critically endangered and there are only around 5,000 living in the wild. Although this number has nearly doubled in the last 20 years (back in the mid-90s there were only around 2,500 around) these animals still need help to keep poachers from killing them off again. The Javan and Sumatran rhinos (found in Indonesia, Sabah and Malaysia) are also listed as critically endangered with less than 100 still alive in the wild!
14. Double horns
Both species of rhinos living in Africa have two horns. Only greater one-horned rhinos have one horn.
15. World Rhino Day
You can help save the rhinos year-round, but each year on September 22, World Rhino Day is celebrated by conservationists across the world. Learn more about how you can help here: http://www.rhinos.org/stay-informed/world-rhino-day.
This article was originally published on April 10, 2015.