We’re going to focus on the rhinoceros over the next few weeks – to bring awareness about this magnificent animal and to remind everyone that rhino horn is not medicine. Seeing a rhino while on safari is like going back to a prehistoric time – and indeed, they’ve been around for more than 50 million years. Wow! Enjoy these first 5 facts and look forward to more in the coming weeks. A big thanks to the International Rhino Foundation for this information.
The name rhinoceros comes from the Greek words rhino (nose) and ceros (horn).
In addition to the large, gray-colored mammals that we all know and love, a number of other animals include the word “rhinoceros” in their names: rhinoceros auklet, rhinoceros beetle, rhinoceros cockroach, rhinoceros hornbill, rhinoceros iguana, rhinoceros rat snake, and rhinoceros viper. All have interesting appendages on their noses!
Rhino horns are made of keratin, the same material that makes up your hair and fingernails.
The rhino’s horn is not bone and not attached to its skull. It is actually a compacted mass of hairs that continues to grow throughout the animal’s lifetime, just like our own hair and nails. The longest horn on record belonged to a white rhino and measured just under 60 inches (five feet). By comparison, a woman from Las Vegas, Nevada is believed to have the world’s longest fingernails – about 10 feet worth on each hand – while a woman from China apparently holds the record for the world’s longest hair – over 18 feet in length! Regrettably, neither human hair nor fingernails are believed to possess the healing properties that Asian people believe are found in rhino horn. If people believed they did, they could chew their own nails and cut their own hair in order to feel well, and halt the needless slaughter of rhinos.
Some rhinos use their teeth – not their horns – for defense.
When an Indian or greater one-horned rhino finds it necessary to defend itself against a predator or other attacker, it doesn’t use its horn to gore its opponent. Instead, it slashes and gouges viciously with the long, sharp incisors and canine teeth of its lower jaw. Neither the black nor the white rhino has any incisor teeth. Only the Indian and Sumatran rhinos have canines, but all five species have three premolars and three molars on each side of their upper and lower jaws.
- The closest living rhino “relatives” are tapirs, horses and zebras.
This group of mammals is referred to as perissodactyls or odd-toed ungulates. Even toed-ungulates are called artiodactyls and include cattle, deer, antelopes, goats, sheep, pigs, camels and llamas.
A group of rhinos is called a crash.
A group of cattle is called a herd, a group of bats a colony, a group of turkeys a flock, a group of bees a swarm, a group of clams a bed, a group of frogs an army, a group of penguins a rookery, a group of hyenas a clan, a group of lions a pride, a group of wolves a pack, and a group of crows a murder. Go figure!
Photos © Gretchen Healey