Indian rhinoceros

(Rhinoceros unicornis)

The Indian rhinoceros is the third largest land mammal on Earth after the elephant and the white rhinoceros. They prefer the marshes and moorlands of northeastern India and Nepal as a habitat, since they love mud wallows and water baths. They can therefore cool their skin and protect themselves against insect bites and dehydration.


Asia: Nepal and India

Open grasslands, marshlands

Grass, elephant grass shoots, herbs, water plants

Approx. 2,700

Up to 3.50 m head-body length, up to 2 m shoulder height

Approx. 2 tonnes

Brooding/gestation time:
Approx. 16 months

Achievable age
Up to 40 years in the wild

What you should know about the Indian rhinoceros

The Indian rhinoceros lives a solitary lifestyle. You will only see bulls and cows together in the mating season. If the tenacious mating act was successful, the cow gives birth to a calf after a gestation period of around one and a half years.


The unicorn among the rhinoceroses

The Indian rhinoceros has only the one horn compared to its African relatives, which can grow up to a length of 25 cm. In contrast to the horn of goats or cattle, it is not grown together with the head nor does it have a bony core. It is composed of keratin and therefore similar in its structure to hooves, hair or nails.


Daunting on the outside – gentle on the inner

If you judge it on it's appearance, the battered sheets of skin on it's sides, the large folds and rivet-like warts on the shoulders and limbs, then the Indian rhinoceros initially comes across as a really aggressive and wild beast. But this is misleading: The Indian rhinoceros is, in fact, an extremely peaceful animal if it's territory isn't directly under threat.


Placid vegetarian

An Indian rhinoceros can devour up to 80 kg of food per day, which mainly consists of grasses, reeds and elephant grass shoots. It uses its distinct finger-like upper lip to skillfully to pluck leaves from branches or water plants. It enjoys wallowing in the mud as its second favourite activity. It does this to cool down and protect itself against dehydration and parasites.


Critically endangered

There were once around half a million Indian rhinoceroses living on the Indian subcontinent, yet there were little more than a hundred at the start of the twentieth century. Man is to blame predominately for this due to the desire to hunt for the coveted horns. These are considered to have potency and therapeutic effects in traditional Chinese medicine. The number has now recovered to around 2,700 thanks to extensive conservation measures.


Is it true, that ...?

Since the mating act of the Indian rhinoceros may last well over an hour, a lot of superstition is placed on the horn's power of endurance in Asian regions such as China and Taiwan. This misconception has threatened rhinoceroses for a long time and continues to do so. In fact it's horn is simply made up of the same substances found in horse hooves, human finger nails and hair.

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