Indian RhinocerosScientific Name Rhinoceros unicornis

Conservation Status Vulnerable

Appearance

Indian rhinoceroses have only one horn on their head. This is black and composed of keratin similar to a human fingernail. It curves back towards the head slightly. Both males and females grow a horn. The average horn measures 25cm (9.8in) long with the largest on record reaching 36cm (14in). In captivity the horn tends to be worn down.

Their armour like skin is grey with the inside of the folds appearing pink. It is thick and features a number of folds. These folds increase the body’s skin area and are filled with blood vessels helping with regulating temperature. Hair is seen only on the eyelashes, at the edges of the ears and on the tail tuft. The flanks and shoulders are dotted with raised bumps. Their upper lip is triangular and prehensile.

They are the second largest of the land animals in Asia with males being larger than females. They stand 180cm (6ft) tall at the shoulder. Their body measures up to 3.8m (12.5ft). They can weigh up to 2,2000kg (4,900lb) for males with 1,600kg (3,500lb) being more common for females.

Lifespan

The average lifespan of an Indian rhinoceros is 40 years. The eldest on record lived to be 47.

Diet

Indian rhinoceroses are herbivores. Most of their food comes from tall grasses and aquatic plants as well as some fruit, leaves and shrub browses.  Aquatic grasses are eaten by tearing up the roots.

They will lick mineral deposits to keep them healthy. They will visit watering holes to drink daily.

Indian rhinocerosHabitat

Asia is the native home of Indian rhinoceros. Here they can be found throughout Nepal and India. This is severely reduced from their former range throughout Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even in India their range is a fraction of what it is historically.

Their preferred habitat is the grassland floodplains. The will also make use of swamps, secondary forests and forests. If their habitat is removed they can move into farmlands where they come in to conflict with humans.

Reproduction

Mating can take place at any point of the year. Indian rhinos only come together to mate. Dominant males have the exclusive breeding rights. Fights occur to determine which male is dominant which in some cases end in death.

They will chase after a female who they determine is in season. This often leads to fights before they gain her approval to mate.

Gestation last 16months at the end of which a healthy calf is born. At birth the calf is just 58kgs (128lbs). It takes a few days for it to start following its mother.

It drinks its mother’s milk for 12-18months. The mother will give birth to another calf after around three years and before this occurs she will chase the last calf away.

Sexual maturity will be reached at 4 years for females and 9 years for males. In captivity males have been observed mating as young as 5 but this is rare in the wild. Females will normally wait till they are at least 6 before mating. It is believed that this gives them time to become large enough to deal with the aggressive behaviour of the male.

Behaviour

The Indian rhinoceros is active by day. They spend the morning and late afternoon foraging and rest during the heat of the day.

The middle of the day is also when they wallow. They will do this in lakes, rivers, ponds and puddles. This helps to keep them cool and also aids in controlling flies. They are the most aquatic rhino species and are regularly spotted swimming.

Indian rhinocerosThey have poor vision so rely mostly upon scents and sounds.

A range of vocalisations are used by the Indian rhinoceros such as honks, snorts, bleats, roars and trumpets.

A male defends a loose territory using piles of faeces to communicate the boundaries though there is often overlap between the territories. The only time he does not allow others passage through this area is breeding season

Man is the only threat to an adult Indian rhinoceros but calves can fall prey to tigers. They are hunted for their horns which are believed to have medicinal properties in Asian medicine.

These animals have a symbiotic relationship with some birds who will eat the parasites off of their skin.

When running they may reach 55km/h (34mph) across a short distance.

Quick Facts

The Indian rhinoceros is also known as the Greater one horned rhino or the Asian one horned rhino.

It is the official state animal of the Assam state of India.

Photo Credits:

Top – By Francis C. Franklin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Middle – By Michaelstone428 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom – By gnozef [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons