The Rhinoceros


Yearly Cycle of Power: Spring, Summer
Time of Power: Dusk, Dawn
Attributes: Protection, Focus, Teaching, Power, and Boundaries

The Rhino is one of those animals that people underestimate. They are in awe of its horn and armored skin, but at the same time they see its appearance as comical. This may actually be a testament to the power within a Rhino. What other animal can amuse its audience while at the same time making them quake before its mighty power. As any movie producer would tell you, itís a near impossible feat.

There are five species of Rhino in the world living in Asia and Africa, but this article will only focus on two: The Black Rhino and the White Rhino. The labels have nothing to do with the colors of their skin. White comes from a misinterpretion of the Afrikaans word weit, which means 'wide'. It was called wide for its wide square lips, which are well adapted for eating the grasses of the savanna. Early settlers thought they were saying white. And when they found a slightly different type of Rhino, what else would they call it but...black. How original. In truth, there is not much different between the white and the black Rhino. The white is larger, weighing 4000-6000 pounds, and having dimensions of 5 - 6 feet in height and 13-16 feet long. The black Rhino is somewhat smaller, weighing 1750-3000 pounds, and having dimensions of 4.5 - 5.5 feet in height and 10 - 12.5 feet long. Either way you slice it, the Rhino is the second largest land mammal on the planet. The White Rhino has that wide lip for eating grasses while the Black Rhino has a hooked lip for eating grasses and also for munching bushes and shrubs. The prehensile hooked lip is one of the most interesting features of the Black Rhino. It works nearly like a thumb. It is said that they are very noisy eaters.

The Rhinos closest genetic relative is the horse. Not many would guess that. Try to look at it a different way. Lets say a horse evolved in a hostile environment when every other day a saber-tooth tiger or giant lion would eat many of their kind. Perhaps you would evolve to gain some armor and a protective horn. Now look at the Rhinoceros with a new set of eyes. Try to see the armored horse in front of you with its protective horn. Majestic isnít it? It is evolution at its finest. People have compared the White Rhino to a workhorse, while the Black would be compared to a thoroughbred. The Rhino can run at speeds of up to 55 km/h. Surprising, isnít it. Again, picture that armored horse. The Rhino is generally a gray color but they can take on the color of the soil around them. They live in the bush plains and grasslands of central to southern Africa. They are herbivores by nature, eating only grasses shrubs and seedlings. They can live to be up to 50 years old. The scientific name 'Ceratotherium simum' comes from the Greek meaning 'Wild beast with a horn and flat nose'. The most visually interesting feature of the Rhino is its horn (actually it has two, the bigger being in the front). In truth itís not a horn at all as it is not attached to the skull. It simply grows on top of the skin. It is made of keratin, the same stuff that fingernails are made of. The horns of a Rhino have inspired much folklore in African history. They were said to have held much magic within them: from curing diseases, to aphrodisiacs, to the more mystical. You name it, and its been attributed to the horns. The Rhino has a great sense of hearing. Its ears are perfectly adapted to be a good listener. Its sense of smell is second to none. They can smell a predator from over a mile away. Its eyesight however is very poor. It is said that sometimes it charges trees as it thinks they look like predators. The Rhino is a mainly nocturnal animal. It is active at dawn and dusk and through the night. It uses the day to rest. Their footprints are very cute. They look like a cross between clover leafs and flowers.

The Rhino is a semi social creature. They live generally in their own territory, perhaps with a few others. Adult Males generally live apart, but females and younger males will sometimes live together. They line the borders of their territories with mounds of their own droppings, which they refresh every few weeks. Itís a way of showing whose territories are whose (by smell). For males it is supposed to repel other males and attract females (I would like to get a females opinion on this). Each territory will contain a watering hole and be between 25 and 75 square miles. Rhinos will wallow in this too cool off. Since they have no sweat glands, the mud acts as sweat for them, taking the heat away. This attracts insects and ticks. To counteract this, they have developed a symbiosis with insect birds. The birds preen the rhinos and in return they get a free lunch and good conversation. The Rhino is one of the most talkative animals in Africa. They make all sorts of sounds including bellows, squeals, grunts, roars, whistles, mewing, coos, and sneezing sounds. Witnessing a mother cooing and mewing to its young will convince you of the depth of feeling these creatures have. A male will court a female, by approaching with a shuffling dance. The female will in turn sing and hum a "love song" and eventually they get on with the mating. The female will be pregnant for a good 16 months at which time she will give birth to one calf. Immediately after the birth, the female boots the male out of her territory. It seems that female Rhinos see the father as serving only one purpose. The calf she raises well past the point which it reaches adult size (2-3 years) although they do not reach sexual maturity for some time after. The female uses this time to teach her calf all her wisdom of the world. It is for this reason that the Rhino is thought of as a mystical teacher.

While Rhinos are technically considered 'prey' animals, this is hardly the case. Their evolution has all but wiped out any predators. The Rhino is well adapted to protecting themselves. They can smell and hear a predator a mile off and will charge to kill or drive off any that come near. It is rare that one is taken by another wild animal. Man is another story. We have been horrible to the Rhino. It is on the top ten endangered species because of us. We kill it for the magic of its horn. In 1970 there were 65000 black Rhinos left in the world. Now there are 3200. Thatís not a lot. It would be a shame to see the armored horse extinct. Rhinos can be fairly aggressive to each other though. Males will often wound one another if they have territorial disputes. Their horns could kill another Rhino, but they rarely do. Most Rhinos are homebodies, being comfortable in their own territory. When they leave their territory, for whatever reason, they will often charge without reason. Perhaps it is to show their dominance, or to gain confidence. No one knows. All they know is that they can be serene in their own territory while they can be more aggressive the moment they step foot in another territory.

A person with a Rhinoceros totem will be a lot like their animal. They will be unassailable. They will know when someone is against them and they will be ready. They will not worry, as once they are set, they feel quite confident in their protection. And if the assailant does not back down, the Rhino Totem will go on the charge (metaphorically). I fear for anyone who tries to pull one over on a Rhino Totem. Rhino totems will be homebodies. They will like their house and family, feeling comfortable in their own space. Once they leave however, they may get a bit more rambunctious. A Rhino Totem will rely on their sense of smell and hearing more than any other. They will be quite apt spiritually and physically. They will have an easy time focusing because of their metaphorical horn. It is their center of focus. Things like meditation will be a snap for a Rhino Totem. They focus themselves on that task and it is done. It is the same for physical tasks. They will look at the task at hand like they have blinders on. They go and go and go until it is complete. Although a Rhino Totem will not be at all times social, it will be admired in a crowd of people, as like the Rhino, it will both amuse them and have them in awe of their power. However, a Rhino Totem may have a few problems. The first arises around heat. Like the Rhino, they may feel uncomfortable in heat and may seek 'alternative' methods of cooling themselves. And they may have problems with their eyesight as the Rhino does. Career wise, the Rhino has many options. A Rhino Totem would make a superb professor or teacher. They would make excellent police officers. They would also make excellent Doctors and Nurses, caring and focusing on the task at hand. At any rate, next time you see a Rhino in a picture or in real life, look at it as the majestic armored horse that it is.

Written by Ravendreamer