Rhinoceros are one of the most vulnerable animals. Despite their huge armored body and majestic keratin horn, they are the most hunted mammals per year in Africa. This is partially the result of their poor sense of sight. Rhinoceros has the smallest eyes compared to its huge body. But are rhinos blind? They are not. They just don’t see very well.
Rhinoceros has substantially poor eyesight. But how far can a rhino see? Though there no official report exists on how far a rhino can see, it is estimated that rhinos can’t distinguish between a man and a tree at a distance of 20 meters.
Again if this distance is increased to 100 meters, they can’t detect any human in motion even out in the grassy plains.
The Wild is a dangerous place for even the rhinoceros. To survive there one must rely solely on their senses. But studies prove that the vision of the rhinos is half as good as the cat and a tenth of the eyesight of an average human being. Due to such a drawback, they need to rely on their other senses to survive in the wild.
Most confirmed reports have come from certified hunters. It is common knowledge among hunters that the vicious black species of the animal can’t tell the difference between a man and a tree from about 20 meters away. This explains why the species acts so vicious at times.
It even attacks huge rocks and termite mounds at times and thus finds itself injured. A study on “Retinal ganglion cell density of the black rhinoceros” done by the University of Queensland says that they should be able to detect moving objects from 200 m away.
Despite the common knowledge among the hunters and locals, many modern studies have proved greater capabilities of rhino vision. One research says that rhinoceros vision may be comparable to that of rabbits. Another proves that the rhinoceros can definitely see better than marine mammals such as dolphins.
Incidentally, there exist blind rhinos in the wild. They have either lost their eyesight in a fight with another male or due to some disease.
4 Reasons Why Rhinoceroses Have Poor Eyesight
There are a handful of reasons and theories behind reasons for such an inferior vision. Some say the rhino is built that way because it doesn’t require keen sight. Others claim the beast just evolved that way. Others say It is because of the small size of the eyeball.
1. Size of the eye
All five species of rhinoceroses have small eyes compared with their body volume. Among mammals, the eyeball is reciprocal to the size of the animal. It means that the smaller the animal, the bigger the eyes. As a result, moles and shrews have smaller eyes.
Again, faster animals such as cheetahs have bigger eyes and stronger vision. But compared to them rhino eyeballs are much smaller in volume with less functioning and poor vision.
2. Binocular vision
The Rhino has its eyes located at the opposite sides of the head. As a result, it doesn’t have the advantage of binocular vision like humans and other mammals do. Their eyes also lack color vision.
Some experts blamed the animal’s fearsomeness for the reason of the sense being neglected during the time of evolution. They say that as no predator wants to take on a rhinoceros because of its humongous size its eyesight was never a primary need.
And finally today only a very few of their population is alive and kicking. Those who are alive are barely surviving in small geographical pockets.
Inbreeding can often result in genetic defects and infertility. This can also cause defective organs in the next generation, inferior eyesight, skin cancer, unexpected behavior, etc.
Unfortunately, many of the rhino species population had to be restored this way as they were going extinct in the wild. The reason for their being so scarce is vast. There were thousands of them roaming the wilderness even at the beginning of the 20th century.
But the massive hunting of the rhinos started in the 1970s. This most aggressive poaching has made all the species to be critically endangered.
Other essentia senses
To compensate for the inferior vision of the rhinoceroses, nature has provided them with other acute visions such as smell, and hearing. Naturally few sensations are worth describing such as smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Animals depend on all of these combined to survive in the wild.
Rhinoceros hearing is one of a kind. They have to rely superbly on their ears as they don’t have any backup from the eyes. As a result, they have developed an excellent sensation for hearing.
The cup-shaped ears can rotate in all directions allowing the beast to receive sounds from everywhere at equal intensity. The unique shape of the outer ear helps the sound waves to reach the inner ear without interruption.
The ears are as good as to pickup infrasounds. Warning calls like the distressing sounds of birds, or the content sound that the calf makes are important for a rhinoceros to act upon.
Smelling helps the rhinoceros to detect objects at a distance where it can’t see or hear them. Their sensation of smell has also been acutely developed to compensate for the vision. The largest area of the brain of the animal helps to detect various kinds of smell.
The olfactory center of a rhinoceros is exceptional among all mammals. The inside of the nose is filled with coin-shaped patches comprising millions of sensory cells.
The sensation of touch is also present but doesn’t have a significant impact on survival in the wild.
Rhinoceroses are herbivorous animals and don’t depend on taste to eat vegetation. They smell the plant first to check if it is fresh and then gobble it up.
Are rhinos blind? Rhinos are not blind but have very poor eyesight. The reasons for this are many. But nature has provided them with other intense sensations that help them to survive in the jungle such as hearing and smell.
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