Do Rhinos Put Out Fires? (Or Is It Just A Myth?)

In the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, there is a rhino that runs to a campfire and puts out the fire. Since this movie was released in 1980, there have been more and more rumors that rhinos always put out fires. This myth has also appeared in other movies and TV shows, such as The Simpsons. 

This legend has also spread throughout countries such as Burma, India, and Malaysia. Some people in these countries believe that if a rhino sees a campfire, they will charge towards it instinctively to put it out. 

Do Rhinos Put Out Fires?

While this myth seems interesting, there is no record of a rhino ever doing this. Rhinos do have a strong sense of smell and it is highly sensitive to smoke. This means that rhinos do not like the smell of smoke and it can irritate them. Because of this, it seems very unlikely that a rhino would purposely charge to this smell.  

study conducted in 1974 showed that this rumor is actually rooted in stories that indigenous peoples used to tell. These groups would tell stories about how rhinos were attracted to fires and the rhinos would then trample on the fire to put it out and they can even become a fire eater. But these are just stories that these people told, much as we tell stories such as “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” or “Hansel and Gretel.” 

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Traveling Europeans would hear these stories from indigenous groups in Asia and bring them back to Europe with them (with no evidence). Then these stories got spread and people believed that all rhinos (no matter which continent they came from) would put out fires.  

There are five different species of rhinos – the Sumatran rhino, the Javan rhino, the black rhino, the greater one-horned rhino, and the white rhino – and none of these species have ever been observed putting out fires. Of these species, the Sumatran rhino, the Javan rhino, and the greater one-horned rhino are the ones that can be found in Asia. The black rhino and the white rhino can be found in Africa. 

A fire is more likely to make a rhino run away as opposed to making them charge at it. Even though rhinos are pretty big (they can grow to be nearly six feet tall and weigh well over 5,000 pounds), they are actually easily scared. These animals also do not have any natural predators, so they do not have to fear any animals, but they get scared of people or man-made things such as campfires.  

White Rhino
White Rhino

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Do Any Animals Put Out Fires?

Since rhinos do not put out fires, do any animals stomp out fires? No animals will really stomp out fires when they see them, but animals do help to keep fires from spreading. And one of these animals are rhinos! You see, in some areas, such as in the African savannah, animals enjoy eating the “fine fuel” plants.

Fine fuel plants are the plants that are highly flammable, such as grass, and can spread wildfires easily. Rhinos, cows, and buffalos are all animals around the world that enjoy eating these fine fuel plants. These animals help to place an important role in managing wildfires. Rhinos eat a lot of dry plants that can spark wildfires such as grass, twigs, leaves, and branches.  

While rhinos cannot put out fires, they can do some pretty neat things anyway! Rhinos can run very fast. The rhinos that can be found in Asia can often reach running speeds of about 25 miles per hour, while the white rhino (which is the biggest of all of the rhino species) can run at speeds of up to 31 miles per hour. The fastest rhino of all is the black rhino. The black rhino can reach speeds of up to 34 miles per hour!  

Black Rhino
Black Rhino

Rhinos can also swim. Asian rhinos are better swimmers than African rhinos, and they can easily cross entire rivers if they need to. Even the African rhinos who do not swim as much, love to rill in the mud. They go in the mud to cool down from the hot sun and they also give themselves a “mud coat” which prevents the rhino from being bitten by bugs and helps them to get rid of any parasites they might have on their skin. 

Read more about it in our Can Rhinos Swim, Jump, Or Walk Backward?