Rhino have been around for millions of years, though there were different species than what exists today. In fact the largest mammal to have ever existed was a type of rhino called Indricotherium. This was a hornless rhino that existed 30 million to 16 million years ago, it measured 5.5m at the shoulder and probably at least had more than a meter of height in its neck and head so it could browse on very tall trees. It weighed 30 tons, the equivalent of 4 modern elephants and had the common name of giraffe rhino. Many species of rhino have existed throughout prehistory. They became the largest and most dominant group of species from 35 to 20 MYA in all northern continents. They ranged over all ecosystems and exhibited a wide range of behaviours, with many different sizes and morphological adaptations.

Later on in prehistory with the occurrence of the family Rhinocerotidae (in which modern day rhinos belong) rhinos occurred in many places throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. They were known to early Europeans who painted them in caves in areas where they occurred.

At the beginning of the 20th century, 500,000 rhinos roamed Africa and Asia. However, by 1970, rhino numbers dropped to 70,000, and today, around 25,400 rhinos remain in the wild. Very few rhino survive outside of national parks and reserves due to persistent poaching and habitat loss over many decades. There are five species of rhino in the world today. Three species live in Asia and two species live in Africa.


The Southern white rhino was once thought to be extinct due to past poaching, however due to the work done by Ian Player and the Kwa Zulu Natal Parks Board during the 1960s and 70s (during the last rhino wars) they brought the species back from the brink of extinction to a thriving species. Until 2008 this species was thriving in protected sanctuaries and was down-classified as near threatened. However, this species, while still the most numerous rhino species, is facing extinction if poaching continues.

There were two sub species:
Southern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum) – 10,080 mature individuals IUCN source.
Northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) – 2 females in Kenya. Soon to be extinct.

White rhinos evolved about 2 – 5 million years ago.


Black rhinos have doubled in number over the past two decades from their low point of fewer than 2,500 individuals, but total numbers are still a fraction of the estimated 100,000 that existed in the early part of the 20th century. There were four subspecies: 
  • Southern-eastern black rhino (Diceros bicornis minor)   – +2200 mature individuals IUCN source
  • South-western black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) – 1334 mature individuals IUCN source
  • Eastern black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli)   – 583 mature individuals IUCN source
  • Western black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes – Extinct
Black rhino evolved about 4 – 10 million years ago.


Successful conservation efforts have led to an increase in the number of greater one-horned (or Indian) rhinos, from around 200 at the turn of the 20th century to around 3,700 today. The greater one-horned rhino is one of Asia’s biggest success stories, with their status improving from endangered to vulnerable following significant population increases. However, the species still remains under threat from poaching for its horn and from habitat loss and degradation.

There are no subspecies.

Indian rhino evolved about 2 – 4 million years ago


Sumatran rhinos once roamed as far away as the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas in Bhutan and eastern India, through Myanmar, Thailand, possibly to Vietnam and China, and south through the Malay Peninsula. Today, the species only survives on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

They are covered with long hair and are more closely related to the extinct woolly rhinos than any of the other rhino species alive today. Sumatran rhinos along with the Javan rhino are one of the most threatened rhino species. Sumatran rhinos are threatened due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The remaining animals survive in small, fragmented non-viable populations, and with limited possibilities to find each other to breed, its population decline continues and it is on the brink of extinction.

There were three subspecies:

Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis sumatrensis)

Bornean rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni)   – Extinct

Northern Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis iasiotis)   – Extinct

Sumatran rhino evolved more than 15 million years ago


Today, a small population of Javan rhinos are found in only one national park on the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Java. A mainland subspecies of the Javan rhino was declared extinct in Vietnam in 2011. The population in Ujung Kulon National Park represents the only population for the Javan rhino and realistically the species is on the brink of extinction. Until the late 19th century and early 20th century, Javan rhinos existed from northeast India and the Sunderbans, throughout mainland Southeast Asia, and on the island of Sumatra. If the populations is lost in Java, the entire species will disappear.

There were three subspecies:

Indonesian Javan rhino  (Rhinoceros sondaicus sondaicus)   – close to being extinct

Indian Javan rhino  (Rhinoceros sondaicus inermis)    – Extinct

Vietnamese Javan rhino  (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus)   – Extinct

Javan rhino evolved about 2 – 4 million years ago

Extinction is forever

All rhinos may be facing the way of the dodo…….extinction. The only way rhinos will avoid extinct is if as many people as possible help them in any way they can.

Why do rhinos matter

In all rhino conservation areas, there are other valuable plants and animals. Protecting rhinos helps maintain and protect other wildlife and plant life in the area and keeps ecosystems healthy. They also create wildlife based tourism in areas that usually have little other industries and can create sustainable incomes and economies for local communities.

Protecting the African white and black rhinos so they do not share the fate of the Asian rhinos with near extinction