Photo: One-horned or Indian rhino

Naturally armored, the Indian rhinoceros is distinguished from other rhinos by its single horn.

Photograph by Anup Shah/Animals Animals—Earth Scenes

Map

Map: Indian Rhinoceros range

Indian Rhinoceros Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Herbivore
Average life span in the wild:
40 years
Size:
Length, 12.5 ft (3.8 m); Height at shoulder, up to 6 ft (1.8 m)
Weight:
4,400 lbs (2,000 kg)
Protection status:
Endangered
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Indian rhinoceros compared with adult man

The Indian rhinoceros lives primarily in northern India and Nepal. These massive beasts have some noticeable physical differences from their African relatives. Their segmented hide looks like a formidable coat of natural body armor. It functions a bit like one also: Flexible skin between the thicker hide "plates" allows them to shift as the rhinoceros moves.

As their Latin name Rhinoceros unicornis suggests, Indian rhinos have only one horn.

Like other rhinos, these animals have sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell. They may find one another by following the trail of scent each enormous animal leaves behind it on the landscape. An Indian rhino can move very quickly when aroused. Their charges have been clocked at 30 miles (48 kilometers) an hour. Despite their bulk, they are nimble and can jump or change direction quickly.

The Indian rhino is a grazer that travels established, tunnel-like paths through its tall-grass habitat. It grasps tall grasses with its prehensile (gripping) lip. In addition to grass, rhinos eat fruit, leaves, and sometimes farm crops. They are often around water and sometimes consume aquatic plants. These animals forage in the cooler temps of morning and afternoon to avoid exerting themselves in the debilitating midday heat. When the sun is high, they often wallow or submerge themselves in water.

The prominent horn for which these rhinos are so well known has also been their downfall. Many animals have been killed for this hard, hair-like growth, which is revered for medicinal use in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The horn is also valued in North Africa and the Middle East as an ornamental dagger handle. There are only about 2,000 Indian rhinos left in the wild.

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