Rhinoceroses are odd-toed ungulates native to sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, though all five living species have hugely contracted in range and number due to the influence of humans. Despite their titanic, tank-like bulk, rhinos can be amazingly swift: The fastest may reach at least 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph).
Top Speeds of Rhino Species
Both Indian and Sumatran rhinos attain running speeds of 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph) and perhaps more. Likely even swifter are the two African rhinos. The white rhinoceros -- biggest of all modern rhinos – bolts at 40 to 50 kilometers per hour (25 to 31 mph), while the smaller black rhino can reach 55 kilometers per hour (34 mph).
Muscular hind legs provide most of a rhino’s forward propulsion. The animals commonly run at a swift trot, but hit full speed in a canter or gallop. While rhinos are not endurance athletes, territorial chases in black rhinos may cover better than a mile. The black rhino in particular is renowned -- and feared -- for its ability to make tight turns mid-charge.
Motivations for Running
Rhinos will take flight from predators -- especially big cats, namely African lions and Asian tigers -- though adults are rarely preyed upon and are just as liable to charge carnivores. Dominant black and white rhino bulls will chase subordinates, but, because fleeing exposes vulnerable hindquarters to a pursuer’s goring, submissive animals often back away from confrontation.
- Rhino Resource Center: Indian Rhino
- Rhino Resource Center: Sumatran Rhino
- The Behavior Guide to African Mammals; Richard D. Estes
- Rhino Resource Center: White Rhino
- Save the Rhino: Black Rhino
- Walker's Mammals of the World, Vol. 1; Ronald M. Nowak (ed.)
About the Author
Ethan Shaw is an independent naturalist and freelance outdoors/nature writer based in Oregon. He holds a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and a graduate certificate in G.I.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His primary interests from both a fieldwork and writing perspective include landscape ecology, geomorphology, the classification of ecosystems, biogeography, wildlife/habitat relationships, and historical ecology. He’s written for a variety of outlets, including Earth Touch News, RootsRated, Backpacker, Terrain.org, and Atlas Obscura, and is presently working on a field guide.
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