Studies on digestive physiology and feed digestibilities in captive Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)

J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). Apr-Jun 2005;89(3-6):229-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0396.2005.00546.x.


We performed intake, digestibility and ingesta passage studies in 11 Indian rhinoceroses (Rhinoceros unicornis) from four zoological institutions, using total faecal collection for the quantification of faecal output. The regularly fed zoo ration of roughage and concentrates (ration RC) and a roughage-only ration (ration R) were used; the roughage source differed between the facilities and comprised grass hay, grass silage, straw and lucerne hay. Dry matter intake ranged between 0.8 and 1.3% of body weight on ration RC and 0.5-1.2% on ration R. Digestibility coefficients achieved were similar to those reported for horses on diets of comparable composition. Endogenous losses as determined by linear regression analysis were within the range reported for horses. Measurements of faecal volatile fatty acids, faecal lactate and faecal pH also showed similarity to similar measurements in horses. The mean retention times of fluids (Co-EDTA) and particles (Cr-mordanted fibre <2 mm) in the whole gastrointestinal tract averaged 42 and 61 h, respectively, and were the longest ever recorded in a monogastric ungulate with this marker system. The results suggest that the horse is a useful model animal for designing diets for Indian rhinoceroses. Why digestive parameters are similar between these species in spite of enormous differences in body weight and retention times remains to be answered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Animals, Zoo
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fiber / metabolism
  • Digestion / drug effects*
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Energy Intake
  • Feces / chemistry*
  • Female
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Perissodactyla / physiology*