AskDefine | Define rhinoceros

Dictionary Definition

rhinoceros n : massive powerful herbivorous odd-toed ungulate of southeast Asia and Africa having very thick skin and one or two horns on the snout [syn: rhino]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative forms


From lang=la, rhinocerontas, from sc=Grek, + sc=Grek.


  • a UK /raɪˈnɒsərəs/, /raI"nQs@r@s/
  • a US , /raɪˈnɑːsərəs/, /raI"nA:s@r@s/


  1. Any of several large herbivorous pachyderms native to Africa and Asia of the family Rhinocerotidae, with thick, gray skin and one or two horns on their snouts.

Usage notes

  • In natural history, the plural rhinoceros is often used, in the same way that the singular of the names of many wild animals is often used in natural history as the plural (compare gazelle, elephant, etc).
  • The plurals rhinoceri and rhinoceroi are often found, formed by association with other Latin and Greek plurals, though they do not represent true Latin or Greek forms.
  • The Latin-derived plural form rhinocerotes is usually considered as a plural of the archaic form rhinocerot.


herbivorous pachyderm with horn(s)

See also



  1. rhinoceros
  2. vessel made of a rhinoceros's horn
  3. nickname for someone with a long nose

Related terms

Extensive Definition

The Rhinoceros (), often colloquially abbreviated rhino, is the common name used to group five extant species of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae. Two of these species are native to Africa and three to southern Asia. Three of the five species—the (Javan, Sumatran and Black Rhinoceros)—are critically endangered. The Indian is endangered, with fewer than 2700 individuals remaining in the wild. The White is registered as Vulnerable, with roughly 14,500 remaining in the wild.
The rhinoceros family is characterised by large size (one of the few remaining megafauna alive today) with all of the species capable of reaching one ton or more in weight; herbivorous diet; and a thick protective skin, 1.5–5 cm thick, formed from layers of collagen positioned in a lattice structure; relatively small brains for mammals this size (400–600g); and a large horn. They generally eat leafy material, although their ability to ferment food in their hindgut allows them to subsist on more fibrous plant matter, if necessary. Unlike other perissodactyls, the African species of rhinoceros lack teeth at the front of their mouths, relying instead on their powerful premolar and molar teeth to grind up plant food. The dental formula varies greatly between species, but in general is:
The rhino is prized for its horn. The horns of a rhinoceros are made of keratin, the same type of protein that makes up hair and fingernails, but the horn is not itself made of hair as previously believed. Both African species and the Sumatran Rhinoceros have two horns, while the Indian and Javan Rhinoceros have a single horn. Rhinoceroses have acute hearing and sense of smell, but poor eyesight. Most live to be about 60 years old or more.

Taxonomy and naming

The word "rhinoceros" (ρινόκερος) is derived from the Greek words rhino, meaning nose, and kera, meaning horn; hence "horned-nose". The plural can be rhinoceros, rhinoceri, rhinoceroses, or rhinoceroi. The collective noun for a group of rhinoceros is "crash".
The five living species fall into three categories. The two African species, the White Rhinoceros and the Black Rhinoceros, diverged during the early Pliocene (about 5 million years ago) but the Dicerotini group to which they belong originated in the middle Miocene, about 14.2 million years ago. The main difference between black and white rhinos is the shape of their mouths. White rhinos have broad flat lips for grazing and black rhinos have long pointed lips for eating foliage. The name White Rhinoceros was actually a mistake, or rather a corruption of the word wijd ("wide" in Afrikaans), referring to their square lips.
White Rhinoceros are divided into Northern and Southern subspecies. There are two living Rhinocerotini species, the endangered Indian Rhinoceros and the critically endangered Javan Rhinoceros, which diverged from one another about 10 million years ago. The critically endangered Sumatran Rhinoceros is the only surviving representative of the most primitive group, the Dicerorhinini, which emerged in the Miocene (about 20 million years ago). The extinct Woolly Rhinoceros of northern Europe and Asia was also a member of this tribe.
A subspecific hybrid white rhino (Ceratotherium s. simum × C. s. cottoni) was bred at the Dvůr Králové Zoo (Zoological Garden Dvur Kralove nad Labem) in the Czech Republic in 1977. Interspecific hybridisation of Black and White Rhinoceros has also been confirmed.
All rhinoceros species have 82 chromosomes (diploid number, 2N, per cell), except the Black Rhinoceros, which has 84. This is the highest known chromosome number of all mammals.

White Rhinoceros

The name Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) was chosen to distinguish this species from the White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). This can be confusing, as those two species are not really distinguishable by colour. There are four subspecies of black rhino: South-central (Diceros bicornis minor), the most numerous, which once ranged from central Tanzania south through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to northern and eastern South Africa; South-western (Diceros bicornis bicornis) which are better adapted to the arid and semi-arid savannas of Namibia, southern Angola, western Botswana and western South Africa; East African (Diceros bicornis michaeli), primarily in Tanzania; and West African (Diceros bicornis longipes) which was tentatively declared extinct in 2006.
An adult Black Rhinoceros stands 147–160 cm (57.9–63 inches) high at the shoulder and is 3.3-3.6 m (10.8–11.8 feet) in length. An adult weighs from 800 to 1400 kg (1,760 to 3,080 lb), exceptionally to 1820 kg (4,000 lb), with the females being smaller than the males. Two horns on the skull are made of keratin with the larger front horn typically 50 cm long, exceptionally up to 140 cm. Sometimes, a third smaller horn may develop. The Black Rhino is much smaller than the White Rhino, and has a pointed mouth, which they use to grasp leaves and twigs when feeding.

Indian Rhinoceros

The Indian Rhinoceros or the Great One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros Unicornis) is found in Nepal and in Assam, India. The rhino once inhabited areas from Pakistan to Burma and may have even roamed in China. But because of human influence their range has shrunk and now they only exist in small populations in northeastern India and Nepal. It is confined to the tall grasslands and forests in the foothills of the Himalayas.
The Indian Rhinoceros has thick, silver-brown skin which creates huge folds all over its body. Its upper legs and shoulders are covered in wart-like bumps, and it has very little body hair. Fully grown males are larger than females in the wild, weighing from 2200–3000 kg (4,800–6,600 lb). Female Indian rhinos weigh about 1600 kg. The Indian Rhino is from 5.7–6.7 feet tall and can be up to 13 feet long. The record-sized specimen of this rhino was approximately 3500 kg. The Indian Rhino has a single horn that reaches a length of between 20 and 101 cm. Its size is comparable to that of the White Rhino in Africa.

Javan Rhinoceros

The Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is one of the rarest and most endangered large mammals anywhere in the world. According to 2002 estimates, only about 60 remain, in Java (Indonesia) and Vietnam. Of all the rhino species, the least is known of the Javan Rhino. These animals prefer dense lowland rain forest, tall grass and reed beds that are plentiful with large floodplains and mud wallows. Though once widespread throughout Asia, by the 1930s the rhinoceros was nearly hunted to extinction in India, Burma, Peninsular Malaysia, and Sumatra for the supposed medical powers of its horn and blood.
Like the closely related larger Indian Rhinoceros, the Javan rhinoceros has only a single horn. Its hairless, hazy gray skin fall into folds into the shoulder, back, and rump giving it an armored-like appearance. The Javan rhino's body length reaches up to 3.1-3.2 m (10-10.5 feet), including its head and a height of 1.5–1.7 m (4.9-5.6ft)tall. Adults are variously reported to weigh between 900–1,400 kg or 1,360-2,000 kg. Males horns can reach 26 cm in length while in females they are knobs or no horn at all.
The origin of the two living African rhinos can be traced back to the late Miocene () species Ceratotherium neumayri. The lineages containing the living species diverged by the early Pliocene (), when Diceros praecox, the likely ancestor of the Black Rhinoceros, appears in the fossil record. The black and white rhinoceros remain so closely related that they can still mate and successfully produce offspring.

Rhinoceros horns

Although rhinos are herbivores, in the novel James and the Giant Peach by author Roald Dahl, the main character's parents are supposedly eaten by a rhinoceros that had escaped from the London Zoo.
Albrecht Dürer created a famous woodcut of a rhinoceros in 1515, without ever seeing the animal depicted. As a result, Dürer's Rhinoceros is rather inaccurate.



  • Cladistic Analysis of the Family Rhinocerotidae (Perissodactyla)
  • Chapman, January 1999. The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China. Christies Books, London. ISBN 0-903432-57-9.
  • African Rhino. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan.
  • Asian Rhinos – Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan.
  • Structure of White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) Horn Investigated by X-ray Computed Tomography and Histology With Implications for Growth and External Form
  • Laufer, Berthold. 1914. "History of the Rhinoceros." In: Chinese Clay Figures, Part I: Prolegomena on the History of Defence Armour. Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, pp. 73-173.
rhinoceros in Afrikaans: Renoster
rhinoceros in Amharic: አውራሪስ
rhinoceros in Arabic: وحيد القرن
rhinoceros in Franco-Provençal: Rinocèros
rhinoceros in Bengali: গন্ডার
rhinoceros in Bosnian: Nosorog
rhinoceros in Bulgarian: Носорози
rhinoceros in Catalan: Rinoceront
rhinoceros in Czech: Nosorožcovití
rhinoceros in Danish: Næsehorn
rhinoceros in German: Nashörner
rhinoceros in Modern Greek (1453-): Ρινόκερος
rhinoceros in Spanish: Rhinocerotidae
rhinoceros in Esperanto: Rinocero
rhinoceros in Persian: کرگدن
rhinoceros in French: Rhinocéros
rhinoceros in Scottish Gaelic: Sròn-adharcach
rhinoceros in Galician: Rhinocerotidae
rhinoceros in Korean: 코뿔소
rhinoceros in Armenian: Ռնգեղջյուր
rhinoceros in Croatian: Nosorozi
rhinoceros in Ido: Rinocero
rhinoceros in Indonesian: Badak
rhinoceros in Icelandic: Nashyrningur
rhinoceros in Italian: Rhinocerotidae
rhinoceros in Hebrew: קרנפיים
rhinoceros in Javanese: Badhak
rhinoceros in Georgian: მარტორქისებრნი
rhinoceros in Kongo: Kifalu
rhinoceros in Haitian: Rinoseròs
rhinoceros in Kurdish: Yek Qoç
rhinoceros in Latin: Rhinoceros
rhinoceros in Lithuanian: Raganosiniai
rhinoceros in Hungarian: Orrszarvúfélék
rhinoceros in Marathi: गेंडा
rhinoceros in Dutch: Neushoorns
rhinoceros in Japanese: サイ
rhinoceros in Norwegian: Neshorn
rhinoceros in Occitan (post 1500): Rhinocerotidae
rhinoceros in Polish: Nosorożce
rhinoceros in Portuguese: Rinoceronte
rhinoceros in Romanian: Rinocer
rhinoceros in Russian: Носороги
rhinoceros in Simple English: Rhinoceros
rhinoceros in Slovenian: Nosorogi
rhinoceros in Serbian: Носорози
rhinoceros in Sundanese: Badak
rhinoceros in Finnish: Sarvikuonot
rhinoceros in Swedish: Noshörningar
rhinoceros in Thai: แรด
rhinoceros in Vietnamese: Họ Tê giác
rhinoceros in Tajik: Каркадан
rhinoceros in Turkish: Gergedan
rhinoceros in Ukrainian: Носороги
rhinoceros in Contenese: 犀牛
rhinoceros in Chinese: 犀牛
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