Rhinoceros are big, fast and formidable fighters—when they want to be. While these horned beasts are potentially very dangerous, they generally prefer to keep to themselves. Despite that attitude, rhinoceros are no pacifists, and when they feel threatened, they'll steer their large, dangerous bodies directly toward a fight.
Unfortunately for the rhinoceros, his sense of sight isn't particularly strong. If anything, though, this makes him more dangerous, not less. Since he can't rely on his eyes to identify whether someone or something in his territory represents a threat, his reactions can be unpredictable. Even a benevolent visitor that the rhinoceros doesn't recognize may seem threatening, leading him to charge in preemptive self-defense. You might expect them to use their horns as weapons, but they actually use their lower incisors, as well as their formidable size and speed: an incensed rhino can knock over a vehicle with people inside.
Somewhat Gentle Giants
Unpredictability goes both ways with the rhino, so while he's dangerous in attack mode, he's just as likely to leave you alone—it all depends on the individual. Some rhinos are predisposed to running away from a threat. And since the rhinoceros can charge at up to 40 miles per hour, he could be making a relatively speedy getaway. In any case, rhinos don't typically go looking for a fight, and are only dangerous when they feel threatened.
Rhinos aren't just protective of themselves; they're protective of each other as well. While rhinoceros typically leave a solitary life, especially the males, females are notably protective of their young. The rhino calf stays with her mother for two years or longer, and during that time the mother is incredibly protective. She won't hesitate to defend her calf, and when she senses that the calf is threatened, she becomes an incensed and dangerous opponent.
Because rhinos are such formidable creatures, they don't typically have to prove how dangerous they are: they look the part enough to keep most predators away. In some cases, a calf away from her mother may be preyed upon by lions, but the mother won't tolerate their presence if she's around. Despite how dangerous these animals are, they are still endangered, and in large part because of human poaching: rhinoceros horns are valued in some parts of the world, and the animals are illegally killed for them.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.