Indian rhinoceros

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Indian rhinoceros

The Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), also called the greater one-horned rhinoceros and great Indian rhinoceros, is a rhinoceros native to the Indian subcontinent. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, as populations are fragmented and restricted to less than 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi). Moreover, the extent and quality of the rhino’s most important habitat, alluvial grassland and riverine forest, is considered to be in decline due to human and livestock encroachment.

The Indian rhinoceros once ranged throughout the entire stretch of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, but excessive hunting and agricultural development reduced their range drastically to 11 sites in northern India and southern Nepal. In the early 1990s, between 1,870 and 1,895 rhinos were estimated to have been alive. In 2015, a total of 3,555 Indian rhinoceros are estimated to live in the wild.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Perissodactyla
  • Family: Rhinocerotidae
  • Genus: Rhinoceros
  • Species: R. unicornis
  • Binomial name: Rhinoceros unicornis

Behavior and Diet

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 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 lip. In addition to grass, rhinos eat fruit, leaves, and sometimes farm crops. They are often around water and sometimes consume aquatic plants.


The Indian rhinoceros is a herbivorous animal meaning that it sustains itself on a purely plant based diet. Indian rhinos browse the densely vegetated sub-tropical forest for leaves, flowers, buds, fruits, berries and roots which they dig up from the ground using their horns.

Due to its large size, the Indian rhino’s only real predator in the wild are large wild cats such as tigers that will prey on the Indian rhino calves and weak individuals. Humans are the biggest threat to the Indian rhinoceros as they have been hunted to the brink of extinction for their horns.


Except for females with young, Indian rhinos are mostly solitary animals. An adult male will loosely defend a territory, which is marked by dung piles that may reach heights of up to one metre. During the breeding season, male Indian rhinos use their tusk-like lower incisors to fight each other, sometimes to the death, to gain access to females.

The female Indian rhinoceros reaches sexual maturity between five and seven years old, whereas the male matures later at approximately ten years of age. After a 16-month gestation period, the female Indian rhino gives birth to a relatively small calf, which usually weighs about 65 kilograms. The calf will remain with the female until just before the birth of the next offspring one or two years later, at which time the female will drive away the young rhinoceros.

Habitat and Ecology

The species inhabits the riverine grasslands of the Terai and Brahmaputra Basins. The species prefers these alluvial plain grasslands, but was known to occur in adjacent swamps and forests. The populations are currently restricted to habitats surrounded by human-dominated landscapes, so that the species often occurs in adjacent cultivated areas, pastures, and secondary forests. The diet includes mainly grasses, but also some fruit, leaves, shrub and tree branches, and cultivated crops (Nowak, 1999). The species also utilizes mineral licks regularly. Males are solitary, with unstructured, overlapping territories.

Indian rhinoceros images

Image by Gerhard G. from Pixabay

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