The second-largest largest land mammals, rhinos are gentle giants that mostly keep to themselves. However, this doesn’t mean they are pacifists. When threatened, rhinos use their sheer body force to fight off predators or opponents. All it takes is a quick glance to figure out that they can inflict serious injuries, but how strong are rhinos actually?
Rhinos are very powerful animals. Weighing over three tons and reaching speeds up to 34 miles per hour, rhinos can hit you with over 8,300 pounds of force. Their strong jaws can exert a bite force up to 1,000 PSI, while their teeth and horns are also powerful. Rhinos are up to 25 times stronger than humans and about ten times stronger than lions.
Rhino strength facts:
- Paw Swipe Force: 269,280 lb.-ft./s
- Adult Paw Size: approximately 12×12 inches
- Bite Force: 1,000 PSI
- Teeth Size: 5 inches
- Adult Weight: 1,212 to 8,000 pounds
How Strong Are Rhinos?
Rhinos are large and bulky mammals capable of exerting a lot of power. African rhinos are generally larger and more powerful than the Asian species, but they are all much stronger than humans, stronger than big cats such as lions and tigers, and even stronger than elephants.
White rhinos are the largest of all rhino species, with an average weight of up to 6,000 pounds (3 tons). However, some of the largest males are even heavier, their weight going up to 7,940 pounds (4 tons).
Despite their massive bodies, rhinos are incredibly fast. They can run at speeds up to 34 miles per hour, much faster than elephants and even faster than grizzly or polar bears.
Their speed and huge body mass enable rhinos to exert about 8,370 pounds of force when hitting an opponent at full speed. This is about ten times the hitting force of a lion and eight times that of a tiger.
Due to their hefty bodies, rhinos rarely rise to stand on their hind feet. Their legs even look frail compared to the rest of their bodies. However, a rhino’s strong legs can withstand over three tons of weight while running at full speed.
This is possible thanks to the anatomy of their feet that reduces the pressure exerted by their bodies. In fact, despite weighing over 40 times more than the average human, rhinos feel a peak pressure of only 15 PSI on their feet pads and about 75 PSI on their toes – about the same peak pressure humans feel when walking.
There are no studies on how much weight rhinos can lift. However, they can likely hold at least 900 pounds on their backs without significant effects on their musculoskeletal function, which is about 15% of their own body mass.
Rhino Size And Strength Differences By Species
There are five species of rhinos, two living in Africa and three inhabiting various regions of Asia. All of them are massive and powerful, but there are significant size and strength differences between them.
The table below highlights the size, weight, and strength differences between the various rhino species:
|Species||Length range||Weight range||Avg. hitting force|
|White rhino||11.2 – 13.1 ft.||3,750 – 7,940 lbs.||6,358 lbs. of force|
|Black rhino||9.8 – 12.3 ft.||1,760 – 6,385 lbs.||4,430 lbs. of force|
|Indian rhino||10.2 – 12.47 ft.||3,530 – 4,850 lbs.||4,558 lbs. of force|
|Javan rhino||6.5 – 13 ft.||1,980 – 5.070 lbs.||3,834 lbs. of force|
|Sumatran rhino||7.7 – 10.4 ft.||1,100 – 2,200 lbs.||1,795 lbs. of force|
Note: The average strike force above is calculated considering the average weight for each rhino species and the top speed of 35 miles per hour. Male rhinos are generally larger and more powerful than female rhinos.
Rhino Bite Force (PSI)
As herbivores, rhinos don’t need strong jaws. Yet, their bite force is about 1,000 PSI – almost as strong as that of a tiger and over one and a half times the bite force of a lion.
Like elephants, rhinos need strong jaws to chew on roots, twigs, and shrubs. However, that’s not the only reason they have strong jaws.
While many people believe that rhinos use their horns to fight off opponents, they actually use their teeth. Rhinos have razor-sharp incisor teeth that can reach five inches in length. They use their bite to inflict lethal wounds on other male rhinos competing for the females but also to defend themselves from predators such as lions.
Just like not all rhinos have the same strike force, not all rhinos have such a strong bite.
White rhinos have the strongest bite force, which is about 1,000 PSI. Black rhinos have a bite force of about 727 PSI, while Sumatran rhinos have a much weaker bite of about 440 PSI. There are no specific studies regarding the bite force of Indian and Javan rhinos, but we can assume it’s within the 440 to 727 PSI range.
How Strong Are Rhinos Horns?
A rhino’s horn makes the animal look intimidating. However, the horns are much weaker than you think.
While most horned animals have horns made of a bone core encased in keratin, rhinos do not. So, what are they made of? Rhino horns are made exclusively of keratin mixed with minerals and melanin. The composition is rather soft, enabling rhinos to hone their horns by rubbing them on the ground or against the bark of trees.
The hardness of the horn is similar to that of a high-performance composite, but it still breaks easily compared to the horns or tusks of other animals. In fact, rhino horns have a work of fracture (a measure of toughness) of only ten kJ/m², which is the equivalent of 4.76 pounds of force per square inch.
If rhino horns are so soft, why do they have horns at all? While it was long believed that rhinos use their horns to defend their territory and fight off other rhinos or predators, their main function is foraging. Rhinos use their horns to dig for water, excavate roots, and break branches.
Because of the alleged therapeutic properties and beauty of the horns, rhinos have been hunted for centuries and brought to the edge of extinction. Sumatran, Javan, and black rhinos are considered critically endangered. Indian rhinos are a vulnerable species, while white rhinos are near threatened.
To help protect the species, vets and conservationists have taken drastic measures and proceeded to cut off rhinos’ horns. Although it seems extreme, the measure is in no way harmful for the mammal. Because the horns are made exclusively of keratin, cutting them off doesn’t hurt the animals. Moreover, rhino horns grow back in time, similar to a human’s nails.
How Strong Is Rhino’s Skin?
While rhinos’ horns are not very tough, the contrary is true for their skin. More than skin, their dermis is a protective armor with a tensile strength of 30 MPa and a work of fracture that is almost eight times higher than the work of fracture of their horns.
The skin on the animal’s flanks and back also resists an incredible amount of stress – up to 170 MPa, which is the rough equivalent of 24,565 PSI.
While rhinos have incredibly tough skin on their flanks and backs though, the skin on their bellies and necks is not as tough. This is how lions manage to kill rhinos.
Why Are Rhinos So Strong?
Similar to elephants, rhinos are so strong thanks to their body mass. These mammals are huge – the second-largest on Earth – and their size gives them the necessary strength.
Not only are rhinos large, but they are also fast. Reaching speeds up to 34 miles per hour, they can output several thousand pounds of impact force. Think of it as a bus hitting you.
While their horns are not very strong, rhinos can still use them to lift and throw loads. At the same time, rhinos have strong jaws and sharp teeth. Their bite force is likely the result of their diet; while rhinos prefer grass and leaves, they also eat roots, shrubs, tree bark, and even twigs and smaller branches.
The toughness of their skin also protects them while foraging through the shrubbery, preventing scratches. Thus, rhinos are so strong because they adapted to their habitat.
How Strong Are Rhinos Compared To Humans?
Rhinos have a very strong strike force as well as powerful bites. Thanks to their size and speed, they can reach an impact momentum up to 187 more powerful than that of a human. Compared to a human’s punch force, rhinos are up to 25 times stronger.
The strongest rhinos have a bite force about six times stronger than humans – who can only muster a bite of about 162 PSI. Smaller rhinos are not as strong, but they still have bites about three times stronger than humans.
When it comes to the impact force, rhinos have two huge advantages: their body mass and speed. The smallest rhinos weigh about six times more than some of the largest men (1,100 pounds vs. approximately 180 pounds). Rhinos can reach speeds up to 34 miles per hour, whereas an untrained man has an average speed of eight miles per hour.
This makes the smallest rhinos about 26 times stronger than a larger man. Compared to some of the strongest rhinos, a larger man can only manage an impact force about 187 times weaker. Trained humans are stronger but still much weaker than rhinos.
If we were to compare a rhino’s strike force to the punch force of a human, the numbers are not as high but rhinos are still much stronger.
The smallest rhinos can put up a strike force up to 1,162 pounds. An average, untrained human has a punch force of about 360 pounds. That’s over three times weaker than a rhino. Compared to the largest rhinos, a human is about 25 times weaker. Thus, if it came to a one-on-one, an unarmed man wouldn’t stand a chance.
Rhinos are powerful but generally peaceful animals. They don’t engage in fights unless to defend their territory or if they feel threatened. Thanks to their massive bodies and strength, rhinos have few natural predators compared to other herbivores – a rhino’s strength exceeds that of most apex predators. Nevertheless, they have been hunted for their horns for centuries and are an endangered species.