Species Information

Common Name
Greater One-Horned Asian Rhino - (GOHAR)
(historically called the Indian rhino)
Scientific NameRhinoceros unicornis
OrderPerissodactyla (odd toed hoofed animals)
Large and heavily armored, one horn, three toes per foot, excellent hearing and smell but poor eyesight
Heightfemales 4 to 5 feet at the shoulder
males 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 feet at shoulder
Weightfemales 3500 to 4000 pounds
males 5000 to 6000 pounds
DescriptionGenerally solitary. Males fight for dominance with razor sharp lower incisors, rather than their horns. Large skin folds around vital areas (neck, genitals, legs) protect critical body parts from serious bite injuries. Can run up to 35 miles per hour in short bursts. They spend much of their day in ponds, streams or mud wallows keeping cool. They defecate in common spots called latrines, sometimes making large rows of manure.
Range and Habitat
Two primary protected areas hold the remaining wild populations; about 450 in Chitwan Park in Nepal and 1200 in Kaziranga Park in Assam, India. Formerly ranging through much of South East Asia, these animals are now confined to the tall grasslands and riverine forests of the Himalayan foothills.
DietBrowse, grasses, fruits and seeds.
Begin reproduction between six and nine years of age. Females cycle every 45 days until conception. Gestation is about 16 months. Calves are weaned between one and two years of age then leave the mother. Females calve every three to four years. Females announce their receptivity through vocalizations, urine spraying and tail flagging. An interested suitor will first chase a female in heat away from her normal area, then lead her into an area away from other male rhinos. Actual receptivity of the females lasts only a few hours. Copulation may last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. Multiple copulations may occur during the few hours the female is receptive. After breeding, the male has no other interest in the female and does not participate in any aspect of calf rearing.
Conservation StatusOne of the world most endangered animals, only about 2000 remain in zoos and the wild.


Rhinos At the National Zoo

Our two females, Mechi and Kali, were born in the wild in Chitwan Park, Nepal sometime in 1986. They were given as a gift to the National Zoo by the King of Nepal in 1987 to aid the genetic diversity of the North American zoo gene pool. Both gave birth in September/October 1996 to their second calves. Each had still born first male calves - Mechi on July 30, 1992, and Kali on Jan. 15, 1993.

The sire of these calves is Pandu (nicknamed Sport). Sport was born on August 8, 1980 at the San Diego Zoo and was loaned to the National Zoo for exhibit in 1985. In 1992 the San Diego Zoo donated Sport to the National Zoo. Sport is currently in residence at the Philadelphia Zoo. He was moved there on July 9 to allow maximal space for the mothers to give birth and manage their calves. Sport will return to the National Zoo after the calves are weaned.

The National Zoo owns two other male GOHAR, both at the Metro Toronto Zoo - Patrick, age 22, was the first Asian rhino born at the National Zoo and in the Western Hemisphere on Jan. 30, 1994. Patrick's son, Sanjay, was born at the Metro Toronto Zoo September 11, 1994.


Rhino Research at the National Zoo and Smithsonian

Scientists working for the Smithsonian have extensively studied these rhinos in Chitwan Park Nepal. These scientists discovered that male dominance is determined by the size and sharpness of the lower incisor teeth rather that by body size or horn size. They also determined that a tree species, Trewia nudiflora, has it's seeds dispersed by rhinos eating them, passing them through their digestive tract and depositing them with their dung in rhino latrines. Sunlight and the fertile rhino dung aid the seeds germination.


Asian Rhino Species Survival Plan

There are now 47 one-horned rhinos in North American housed in 16 zoos. Seven of these, including the new calves belong to the National Zoo. The National Zoo is a participant in the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the Greater One-Horned Asian Rhino (Indian Rhino). The two new calves are a result of planned breedings recommended by the SSP. The other institutions housing this rhino species in North America are Buffalo, Metro Toronto, Cincinnati, Fort Worth, Gulf Breeze, Los Angeles, Miami, The Wilds, Bronx, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Rolling Hills, San Diego Wild Animal Park, San Francisco, and Lowry Park.


Information Compiled By John Lehnhardt - Assistant Curator of Mammals