By Amelia Meyer
The rhinoceros is probably best known for its striking resemblance to the dinosaurs of millennia back. With its thick, leathery skin and its prominent horn, coupled with its sheer size, it is not surprising that the rhino looks like it emerged from the annals of ancient history.
The rhinoceros is one of the largest animals roaming the plains of the planet today, second only to the elephant. The various species of rhino differ slightly in size and design. For example, a Black Rhino reaches an average weight of between 800 and 1 300 kilograms (or approximately 1 750 and 3 000 pounds), while a White Rhino can be up to three tonnes (or 6 000 pounds) in weight. A Black Rhino will be about 5.5 feet (or about 1.7 metres) at shoulder height, while its white counterpart can reach six feet (or 1.8 metres) tall. Interestingly, the Black Rhino tends to eat far more from the leaves of shrubs and trees than the White Rhino, which grazes on ground-level grasses.
Therefore, the Black Rhino does not need the enormous muscles that are in the shoulder of the White Rhino, which are used to lift the massive head of the animal from ground level. This means that the Black Rhinoâ€™s actually head stands higher than that of the White Rhino. The Sumatran Rhino is the smallest of them all, at less than five feet high and weighing only up to 1 000 kilograms (or 2 200 pounds), but averaging about 800 kilograms (or 1 800 pounds).
Despite the fact that their names seem to indicate that the Black and White Rhinoceroses are different colours, their main physical difference is actually the shape of their lips. In fact, the name â€œWhite Rhinoâ€ comes from the Dutch term â€œweitâ€, meaning wide (referring to its wide, flat lip). The White Rhino has a square upper lip, while the Black Rhinoâ€™s lip has a hook, or triangular appearance. The Indian, Sumatran and Javan Rhinos also boast hooked lips, although not necessarily as pronounced as that of the Black Rhino.
The hide of the rhino is tough and leathery, and is a grey-brown colour. The pelts of the Indian Rhinoceros and the Javan Rhinoceros are both plated, making it appear to be protected by sturdy armour. The White, Black and Sumatran Rhino, on the other hand, do not have these plates.
Rhino feet are protected by hooves, each of which has three toes. These hooves protect the feet as the rhino traverses rough terrain with plenty of thorns and twigs lying in its path. The hooves are also used to scratch the ground in the territory-marking process.
Rhinos are also known for their iconic horns. However, this has become the single largest threat to their existence, since these horns are extremely valuable for their perceived medicinal use and their ornamental appeal. The Javan and Indian Rhinoceroses have only one prominent horn, while the Black, White and Sumatran Rhinos all have a prominent horn as well as a smaller horn. The horn is not part of the skeleton and can, therefore, grow back when trimmed or removed.