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EPISODE 3: Its all about the horn, the rhinoceros

Episode 3: It’s all about the horn, the rhinoceros

Angie (left) and Chris (right) working with white rhinoceros from a conservation center in Florida.

Truth About Rhino Horn

The rhinoceros is being heavily poached for its horn in the belief that it provides medicinal value to humans. Repeated analyses have proved that the chemical makeup of rhinoceros horn does not differ from human hair, finger nails, porcupine quills, among many other keratin-based compounds. There is absolutely no medicinal value of rhinoceros horn and not one single scientific-based study linking rhinoceros horn to any healing properties.

Below is a table of chemical composition of rhinoceros horn compared to other keratin-based material.

Species of Rhino

The rhinoceros is the second largest land mammal on Earth. They now inhabit both the African and Asian continent. There are 5 main specie of rhinoceros:

White rhinoceros (Africa)

  • Northern white rhinoceros -headed to extinction with 3 animals left
  • Southern white rhinoceros -estimates of over 20,000 animals left

Black rhinoceros (Africa)

  • Eastern black rhinoceros- critically endangered with only 700 animals left
  • South-central black rhinoceros- critically endangered with only 2,000 animals left

Indian rhinoceros (Asia)

  • Endangered with only 2,500 animals left

Javan rhinoceros (Asia)

  • Critically endangered with less than 60 animals left

Sumatran rhinoceros (Asia)

  • Critically endangered with less than 100 animals left


Rhino History

The rhinoceros evolved with a group of species know as ‘odd-toed’ ungulates. Each species of rhinoceros has three toes on each foot. The rhinoceros closest relatives include the horse and tapir.

Over the past 55 million years, there have been many variations of the rhinoceros to include the Woolly rhinoceros and the Giant rhinoceros of Siberia. All have naturally gone extinct to provide the wide variation seen in today’s species.


Rhino Physiology

The rhinoceros can live up to 40 years in the wild. The Southern white rhinoceros can stand up to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall at the shoulder and weigh 5,000 lb (2,300 kg). The other species of rhinoceros are slightly smaller but are still quite large. The rhinoceros can reach speeds of 35 mph (45 kph) and are known to have poor eye sight. While all the species of rhinoceros differ slightly in size, there are other major physical differences:

  • White rhinoceros has a wide square lip
  • Black rhinoceros lips have a hook
  • Asian species lips are a mixture of both
  • Sumatran rhinoceros have long hair

The rhinoceros can eat up to 120 lb of food a day. The white rhinoceros and Indian rhinoceros are both grazers and mainly eat grasses. The Black, Javan, and Sumatran rhinoceros are browsers and eat a varied diet of grass, plants, leaves, bark and small branches. Interestingly, the White rhinoceros can eat many poisonous plants and not have suffer any bad side effects.

Organizations to Support

International Rhino Foundation

The Rhino Orphanage

Help end the rhino horn trade!


November 14, 2017
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