Did you know that rhinoceros are related to horses and zebras? These amazing animals with their unique horns, are total vegetarians that feed on grass, shrubs and roots. The number of horns in a rhinoceros may vary from one to two, as per the specific species. They are said to be the second largest mammal in the world. Another interesting rhinoceros fact is that they have the thickest skin, as compared to other land animals.
Most of the rhinoceroses are found in certain regions of Asia and Africa. As of now, there are five extant species of rhinoceros and they include white rhinoceros and black rhinoceros (both are African species) and the other three are the Indian rhinoceros, Javan rhinoceros and the Sumatran rhinoceros. White rhinoceros is the African species that is subdivided into Southern and Northern varieties.
Now you know that white rhinoceros is an African species. You may infer from the name that the animal could be white in color. But, in fact, the color of this rhinoceros species is much like black rhinoceros - brownish gray. You may find many different explanations for the name of this rhinoceros species. According to some, the name is associated with the light-colored horn of the animal. It is also suggested that the skin of this rhinoceros appears to have a lighter shade, as it is often found to be covered with chalky soil.
One of the popular contentions is that the name white rhinoceros may have been derived from the Dutch word 'wijd', which means wide and not white. As per this theory, the Dutch word has been used to describe the wide mouth of these animals. These animals are also referred to as square-lipped rhinoceros.
Scientifically termed as Ceratotherium simum, white rhinoceros has two sub species and they are northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) and southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum). While there is no considerable decline in the population of southern white rhinoceros, northern white rhinoceros is in the critically endangered list of the IUCN.
As per estimates, there are only eight of them left in the world, that too in the zoos. As of now, these animals are considered extinct in the wild. Both these sub species are found to have the same body color. However, they differ in their lip shape and habit of eating. Northern white rhinoceros have wide, square lips, whereas the southern variety has a pointed upper lip. The lip shape is associated with their eating habits. While, the northern type are grazers that feed on the grass from meadows, the southern version are browsers that feed on shoots and buds.
Some Facts about Northern White Rhinoceros
As stated above, northern white rhinoceros population has been reduced to eight, and now this rhinoceros sub species is in the IUCN's critically endangered list. It is said that poaching is mainly responsible for this condition.
- Being one among the largest mammals on the earth, northern white rhinoceros can have a maximum body weight of around 2.5 tons (may grow to 4 tons too) with a height of up to six feet and length of 15 feet.
- These rhinoceroses are found to have a lifespan of forty years in the wild. Before getting extinct in the wild, northern wild rhinoceros were found in certain parts of Uganda, Chad, Sudan, and Congo.
- The eight living members of these subspecies are now lodged at San Diego Zoo's wild animal park and the Dvùr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic.
- In the wild, the habitat of this rhinoceros sub species included grasslands and savannas. During dry spells, they are capable of living without water for around four to five days.
- The breeding age of these white rhinoceros females is around 30 to 35 years. The gestation period may last for 520 to 540 days and the newborns have a body weight of around 40 to 65 kilograms.
- Northern white rhinoceros has two horns that are found to grow from the nasal bone. The anterior one is longer than the posterior one. Made of keratin, these horns grow continuously, even if it is torn off.
The above said is only a brief overview about some common northern white rhinoceros facts. Even though, they are amazing and interesting animals, the sad truth is that they are on the verge of extinction. However, efforts are still going on to revive their population.