Indian Rhinoceros

Rhinoceros unicornis

Click to view a larger image. Click to view a larger image. mammal mammal

Museum specimen featured in the Wild exhibition
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria

Indian Rhinoceros
Image: Bernd Hoefel
Source: photolibrary

Type: mammal

Indian Rhinoceros Indian Rhinoceros
Image: Bernd Hoefel
Source: photolibrary

Conservation Status

Secure Vulnerable Endangered Extinct  ]

Intensive hunting for sport and for the Chinese medicine trade reduced the number of wild Indian Rhinoceroses to just 200 animals in the 1900s. Agricultural expansion has also eroded their natural habitat and brought them in close contact with people. Strict protection has allowed numbers to build up to over 2000 today. Poaching is still a major threat to this species.



Indian Rhinoceroses are herbivores.

They eat fruit, leaves, branches and cultivated crops.


Indian Rhinoceros relative size depiction as described below

Size relative to a woman and an African Elephant.

1600–3000 kg
up to 4 m
1.7–2.0 m

Amazing Indian Rhinoceroses

These rhinos are found in floodplain grasslands and adjacent swamps and woodland. Their diet comprises up to 90 per cent grass, depending on the season. Encroaching human activity and declining habitat has pushed Indian Rhinoceroses onto agricultural plantations, where they graze on crops.

Indian Rhinoceroses spend a lot of time submerged, with their massive bodies concealed and supported by the water. Wrinkles in their tough, warty skin create the appearance of armour plating. They are excellent swimmers and can also run surprisingly fast on land.

Adults are mostly solitary except for mothers caring for their calves. Females are pregnant for 16 months before giving birth to a single hornless calf. When two adult males meet they may fight for dominance using their tusk-like lower teeth, sometimes to the death.

Traditional Chinese medicine considers that rhinoceros horn has valuable medical properties. As a result, poachers can receive high prices for a horn. Hunting Indian Rhinoceroses for sport was popular among Europeans in the 1800s and 1900s and dramatically reduced their numbers. Rhinos reproduce slowly, so it takes a long time for populations to recover. A dedicated protection program since the 1900s has allowed Indian Rhinoceros numbers to recover from near-extinction.

Did You Know?

Indian Rhinoceroses

  • were once almost extinct, but recovered because of conservation efforts
  • are the most amphibious of the rhinos
  • have a single horn made of keratin, the same material as human fingernails


Indian Rhinoceros distribution map

Wild Indian Rhinocerouses are found only in national parks in Nepal and India, having been wiped out in Bangladesh, Bhutan and Pakistan. They live in freshwater swamps and grasslands.


Other animals from Indomalay

Indian PeafowlLuzon Bleeding-heartMasked Palm CivetJavan Rhinoceros