Rhinoceroses are dull of sight, but their hearing and scent are remarkably acute.
The African species use the nasal horns as weapons, with which they strike and toss their assailant, but the Asiatic rhinoceroses employ their sharp lower tusks much as does a boar.
Rhinoceroses disappeared comparatively early from the New World, and never reached South America.
In North America rhinoceroses became extinct before the close of the Pliocene period; but in the Old World, although their geographical distribution has become greatly restricted, at least five well-marked species survive.
Rhinoceroses are of large size and massive build, but have little intelligence, and are generally timid in disposition, though ferocious when wounded or brought to bay.
Living rhinoceroses may be arranged in three groups: (1) With a single nasal horn, and very thick skin, which is raised into strong, definitely arranged ridges or folds.
To the third group or genus (Diceros) belong the two African rhinoceroses, which have two horns, the skin without definite folds, and no lower tusks.
The ancient Greeks and Romans kept in captivity large numbers of such animals as leopards, lions, bears, elephants, antelopes, giraffes, camels, rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses, as well as ostriches and crocodiles, but these were destined for slaughter at the gladiatorial shows.
Among extinct Tertiary mammals we can actually trace the giving off of these radii in all directions, for taking advantage of every possibility to secure food, to escape enemies and to reproduce kind; further, among such well-known quadrupeds as the horses, rhinoceroses and titanotheres, the modifications involved in these radiations can be clearly traced.
This principle has been demonstrated recently among Tertiary rhinoceroses and titanotheres, in which remains of four or five genetic series in the same geologic deposits have been discovered.
Among land animals striking illustrations of this local polyphyletic law are found in the existence of seven or eight contemporary series of rhinoceroses, five or six contemporary series of horses, and an equally numerous contemporary series of American Miocene and Pliocene camels; in short, the polyphyletic condition is the rule rather than the exception.
It is displayed to-day among the antelopes and to a limited degree among the zebras and rhinoceroses of Africa, a continent which exhibits a survival of the Miocene and Pliocene conditions of the northern hemisphere.
The Perissodactyla may be divided into the four following sections, namely the extinct Titanotheroidea, the Hippoidea, represented by the horse tribe and their ancestors, the Tapiroidea, typified by the tapirs, and the Rhinocerotoidea, which includes the modern rhinoceroses and their forerunners.
Rhinoceros Group. - The last section of the Perissodactyla is that of the Rhinocerotoidea, represented by the modern rhinoceroses and their extinct allies.
Hornless rhinoceroses, with five fronttoes, ranging from the Oligocene to the Lower Pliocene in Europe, represent the genus Aceratherium, which may also occur in America, as it certainly does in India.
With the short-skulled, short-footed, three-toed and generally horned rhinoceroses ranging in Europe and America from the Lower Miocene to the Lower Pliocene, typified by the European R.
Osborn, "Phylogeny of the Rhinoceroses of Europe," op. cit.
In the lowlands, tigers, rhinoceroses, deer and wild hogs are abundant.
The more typical members of the genus are terrestrial in their habits, and their cheek-teeth have nearly the same pattern as in rhinoceroses; while the interval between the upper incisors is less than the width of the teeth; and the lower incisors are only slightly notched at the cutting edge.
Other epidermic appendages are the horns of ruminants and rhinoceroses - the former being elongated, tapering, hollow caps of hardened epidermis of fibrous structure, fitting on and growing from conical projections of the frontal bones and always arranged in pairs, while the latter are of similar structure, but without any internal bony support, and situated in the middle line.
The now waning group of Perissodactyla would appear to have originally been a northern one, as all the three existing families, rhinoceroses (Rhinocerotidae), tapirs (Tapiridae), and horses (Equidae), are well represented in the Tertiaries of both halves of the northern hemisphere.