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Rhinoceroses

( Originally Published 1936 )

There are five living species of Rhinoceroses, three of them Asiatic and two African. They are large, bulky animals, have three toes on each foot, a very thick, naked, or sparsely-haired hide, and on the middle line of the face, one or two large horns, which are declared to be composed of hairs massed together, attached only to the skin, and therefore having no bony core. The tail is short and tufted.

The so-called Black Rhinoceros (R. Bicornis) of Africa is a large and powerfully built animal, specimens having been seen over five feet in height at the shoulder. In spite of its great size this animal is very active and can run with considerable speed. There are two horns on the nose, one placed toward the tip, the other almost directly over the eyes, the forward one usually larger than the rear one. This horn, as has been said, does not cover a bony core, like those of the antelope and cattle, but is simply attached to the skull by a roughening of the surface of the bone on top of the nose, and by the surrounding flesh and skin. In fact, the horn has been at times torn from the nose completely, but its growth continues during the life of the animal. In captivity, owing to the lack of wear to which it should be subjected, it becomes malformed and odd in shape, growing out in different directions much as an unused nail would do; but in the wild state, owing to the constant friction, it becomes smooth and pointed and continues in a fairly upright line from the nose. This species also possesses a rather long prehensile lip, which is of great aid to the animal in feeding upon various bushes. The skin of the Black Rhinoceros is heavy and coarse, but is not laid in such heavy folds, or plates, as that of the Indian species. The ears are large and tube-like, and set close to the top of the head; the eyes are small, and the animal does not see well, depending upon its keen scent and hearing to warn it of danger. Although greatly reduced in numbers, the Black Rhinoceros is still fairly common in Africa.

Sumatran Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sumatrensis)

This species is brown or black, and is more thickly covered with bristles than any other living species of Rhinoceros. It is not confined to Sumatra, but is also found in Borneo and throughout the Malay Peninsula. It measures seven or eight feet in length, and is a much more timid and retiring creature than the other members of the family. It is remarkable as being the only Asiastic species that possesses two horns; both of which, however, are small and rather insignificant. See Plate 36, Fig. 152.

Burchell's Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros simus)

This animal, often called the White Rhinoceros, is now on the verge of extinction. It is still larger than the Black Rhinoceros, and although the two forms bear such widely different names, they are said closely to resemble each other in general colour, which is neither black nor white, but a light pinkish-grey, much the colour of rock. It does not possess the prehensile lip of the Black Rhinoceros, the mouth being broad and square, but resembles it in form. The forward horn also is longer and straighter. Until a few years ago it was abundant in various districts of Africa, but is now practically exterminated, the few remaining specimens being very strictly pre-served. It is known, however, that a similar, if not the same, species inhabits some parts of Central Africa. The African hunters, Cumming and Selous, relate that, when alarmed, the female lets the calf run before her, guiding its paces by resting her horn on its rump.

Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornus)

The Indian Rhinoceros is a gigantic creature with one horn. This enormous animal is six feet or more in height at the shoulder, and measures ten or twelve feet in length, and the massive, but short, horn projects from the tip of the nose. Most singular are the immense folds, or plates, of hide disposed over the body, and the position of the ears, which are placed close together and set on the extreme top of the skull. The head is very much bent up in profile, the nose being turned downward and the under lip spread out on either side. The feet are small and compact for the size of the animal, which, owing to its great bulk, has not the speed of any of the other species. It is found in swampy country in India, and is often hunted, as is the tiger, with elephants. The voice is out of proportion to its huge size, consisting merely of a diminutive squeak or squeal.

In general character it is very primitive, resembling fossil forms that existed many thousands of years ago. Indeed, the Rhinoceros represents a type that has otherwise long since disappeared from the face of the earth. At one time, judging from these remains, it was very common in all portions of North America, Europe, and many parts of Asia; and in the north of Europe and in Siberia a woolly form, clothed like the mammoth with reddish hair, has been found, possessing two horns and in general form not unlike the African. Still another, that must have carried one enormous horn directly over the eyes, has been discovered in the same region.



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