Rhinocerotidae


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Rhinocerotidae

 

a family of mammals of the order Pe-rissodactyla. They are 2.5–4 m long and 1–2 m high at the shoulders and weigh up to 3 tons, sometimes more. The massive body has thick skin and virtually no hair. There are one or two horns (one behind the other), consisting primarily of thickened, callous skin, on the nose and nasal bone. The canines are reduced in size, and incisors are sometimes absent. The animals have a short neck, a convex back, a sagging stomach, and a sharp spine. The massive body is supported by short three-toed legs. The toes are encased in hooves, with the middle hoof being the largest one. Rhinoceroses are dark gray. Their senses of hearing and smell are well developed, but their vision is poor. Despite their bulky bodies, the animals can run very fast for short distances (up to 40–45 km/hr). They are bad tempered and easily irritated.

Rhinoceroses are found in Southeast Asia and Africa, where they inhabit tropical forests, savannas, coastal thickets, and marshes. They eat grass, shoots, and leafy shrubs. The animals live in pairs and, sometimes, in small groups. Rhinoceroses are primarily nocturnal. They mate in November and December. After a gestation period of 17–18 months, the female bears one offspring, weighing about 25 kg.

Rhinoceroses are hunted for their meat, skin, and horns. The skin is used to make various objects. Medicinal properties are attributed to the horns. The number of rhinoceroses has been greatly reduced, and, as a result, the animals are protected everywhere.

There are five species of rhinoceros, making up three genera. The Sumatran, or Asian, two-horned rhinoceros (Didermocerus sumatrensis) is lightly covered with hair. It is not large, measuring only 2–2.5 m in length. The animal, formerly common in Southeast Asia, has been preserved primarily on the island of Sumatra (100–150 individuals).

The two species of the genus Rhinoceros have very thick skin, with folds forming large plates that hang on the sides like armor. The great Indian rhinoceros (R. unicornis), the larger of the two species, is found in eastern India and Nepal. About 750 individuals have been preserved, more than half of which live in the Kasirang National Park (in the state of Assam, India). The Javan rhinoceros (R. sondaicus) is in danger of extinction; 25 to 30 individuals have been preserved in western Java.

The genus Diceros comprises two species. The animals have two horns, and, unlike the great Indian and Javan rhinoceroses, adult individuals have no incisors (although young animals do have them). The skin does not have folds. The black rhinoceros (D. bicornis) is found primarily in East and Central Africa, and the white rhinoceros (D. simum), which is the largest representative of the family (some individuals weighing 5 tons), is found in East and South Africa (between the Orange and Zambezi rivers). Some zoologists place this species into the independent genus Ceratotherium. Fossil Rhinocerotidae are not numerous. Several forms of fossil rhinoceroses, including Elasmotherium and the woolly rhinoceros, inhabited what is now the USSR.

REFERENCE

Zhizn’zhivotnykh, vol. 6. Moscow, 1971.

I. I. SOKOLOV