Apart from tea, if there is anything else that characterises Assam as much, it has to be the one-horned rhinocerous, called ‘gaur’ by the locals. People from all across the globe throng Assam’s national parks like Kaziranga and Pobitora to sight this majestic beast. And you are almost always in luck to spot the rhinos grazing in the grassland, or taking a plunge in the little ponds and marsh areas. The Great Indian Rhinocerous though found only in Assam now, is said to have dwelt along the Indo-Gangetic belt many centuries ago, stretching up to certain parts of Nepal. Over the years, due to deforestation and agriculture, the population of rhinos has reduced significantly, and so has their natural habitat.
These massive animals are seen in other parts of the world too, such as Africa and Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia. There are only five living species of rhinos in the world today, of which the one-horned rhinocerous is found in Assam as well as in Java. They are large-sized mammals with thick, greyish-brown, scaly skin. Local stories suggest that even elephants don’t like to mess with rhinos and therefore they maintain distance.
Ever wondered what the rhino horn is made of? It is definitely not bone. Yes, the prized horn is actually the accumulation of keratin over a period of years. If you have seen baby rhinos, you will notice that they do not have horns. It takes about five to six years to form shape and can grow up to 10-12 inches long.
Kaziranga is the most popular destination in India to head to if you want to see these massive beasts first hand. You can take the jeep safari, or better still, the early morning elephant safari to soak in the jungle experience. If you are visiting for a day, you can head directly to the Government owned safari point and wait your turn. Or if you are halting for the night in one of the many beautiful resorts and hotels in Kaziranga, you only need to inform the staff and they will arrange the ride for you.