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The Indian rhinoceros is a descendant of an old species of rhinoceros. Despite its fearsome appearance, it is generally a peaceful animal. Measuring more than 12 feet long and weighing up to 2 tons, the Indian rhinoceros is bigger and heavier than a car. It may appear to be ponderous and slow, but it can suddenly charge at a frightening speed to drive off rivals or enemies who stray too close.

The Indian rhinoceros lives in dense growths of tall elephant grass in swampy areas near rivers. Here it wallows in the shallow water and mud to keep cool during the day. It may also head for higher ground in search of food. The greater Indian rhino is principally a grazing animal. Adaptable in its feeding methods, the rhino has a widely varied diet. It eats new plant growth as well as bamboo shoots, water hyacinths, and a variety of crops, which can make the rhino a nuisance to farmers.

The Indian rhinoceros is somewhat territorial. Rhinos share communal bathing pools, wallows, and dung heaps, but they establish their own feeding and sleeping areas, which average 5,000 square yards. Rhinos remain submerged in their wallows during the hottest part of the day. Wallowing is important for the rhinos because it protects them from biting insects and prevents overheating. In morning, the rhinos feed in open areas, slowly moving toward cover as the sun rises higher. Throughout the day, local populations of rhinos come into contact while traveling to wallows and bathing pools. At dusk, they will move again to their feeding areas and graze until midnight before resting. The females who have young calves move into the shelter of tall grass to protect the young from tigers. The other rhinos, too big to fear any predators, lie down wherever they happen to be feeding.

The female rhino comes into heat for 24 hours every five to eight weeks. She attracts the male by spraying urine and by making a gentle, whistling sound. The male often chases the female, and they may fight until she is ready to mate. The solitary female seeks dense cover when it is time to give birth. The calf will stay with its mother until the birth of her next offspring between 18 months and two years later.

The conflict between man and the Indian rhinoceros arises from the damage that rhinos do to crops and the damage that man does to the rhino’s food supply, elephant grass. The rhino survives only in protected areas. The population is rising steadily; however, it is threatened by poaching for its valuable horn and is listed as endangered.