A Herbivorous Giant

In the animal kingdom the three larg­est animals are the elephant, the hippo­potamus, and the rhinoceros. Huge ani­mals, yes, but what a vast difference in brain capacity! The brilliant-minded ele­phant is admired for his cleverness and learning ability. How well they perform and how adept they become at tricks. They can be taught how to work efficient­ly and effectively.

In contrast to the elephant, we find the “numbskull of the jungle”—the rhino­ceros. A jumbo-beast with a jumbled brain. The largest animals are about 6 feet high, 14 feet long, and weigh from 2 to 3 tons.

There are five species, which are found in Southern Asia and Southern Africa. The Indian species differs from the Afri­can species in appearance. First of all the skin of the former hangs in loose folds and is a dark brownish-grey color; while in the case of the latter the skin is hairy and without folds. Although, the Indian species is larger it is less fero­cious.

Protruding from the upper part of the nose is a centrally located horn which varies from 1 to 2 feet in length and curves backward. The Indian rhinoceros usually has only a single horn, while the African species is always characterized by two horns (the one growing behind the other).

As this animal is herbivorous it lives exclusively on vegetation. The horn is advantageous in this connection since it is used to uproot small trees in order to gain access to the foliage. However, it is not too selective about its diet and at times on its nocturnal jaunts in search for food,  it must content itself on mere thorns and hitter herbs. Because of the darkness of night and its poor vision, it is at times handicapped in obtaining the more choice foliage.

Because of its horn or hook, the rhino­ceros has been nicknamed “Old Hooklip”. To the Chinese this hook was considered very valuable because it was thought to be useful as a powerful medicine; and as a result, the Chinese were eager to purchase Hooklip’s hook for half its weight in gold. Not only was the hook important, but the dried blood of this animal sold for a dollar a pound because of its supposed medicinal value.

Not only is the creature stupid, but it is irritable and ferocious when attacked. Although it is repugnant and vicious in appearance, it is extremely clumsy and is seldom on the offensive. In fact, it is difficult to hunt, for it remains well hid­den in the swampy areas and marches. To track down the rhinoceros, the hunter uses a number of elephants, which stamp through the jungles and drive the victim into the clearing. When thus brought to bay, the prey displays a vicious temper and is a dangerous adversary. In spite of its bulky frame and short legs it can run for a short distance as fast as a horse. However, Carl Akeley, a natural­ist hunter, claims if the rhinoceros misses in his first lunge, the greatest danger is over, and it is not considered on a par with hunting lions, elephants, or water buffalo.

Frequently, the rhinoceros is in great discomfort, due to the multitude of blood­sucking parasites which get under the folds of its skin. These insects not only torment the animal, but seep much of its vitality by sucking as much as a gallon of blood a day from their host. The only source of comfort, in this case, is a friendly little bird about the size of a thrush who manages to get free trans­portation and food. It works for its “room and board” by eating a great num­ber of these pestiferous insects, which re such a nuisance to the host. It perches contentedly on the head or back of old Hooklip, enjoying the feast until it is aroused by danger. Then it circles around in the air and shrilly cries out a warning which the animal heeds,