The Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), also called the greater one-horned rhinoceros and Indian one-horned rhinoceros, belongs to the Rhinocerotidae family. Listed as a vulnerable species, the large mammal is primarily found in north-eastern India’s Assam and in protected areas in the Terai of Nepal, where populations are confined to the riverine grasslands in the foothills of the Himalayas.
The Indian rhinoceros once ranged throughout the entire stretch of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, but excessive hunting reduced the natural habitat drastically. Today, about 3,000 rhinos live in the wild, 2,000 of which are found in India’s Assam alone.
It is the fifth largest land animal.
And the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible says: “God hath brought him out of Egypt, whose strength is like to the rhinoceros.”
Well, which is it? Unicorn? Ox? Or rhino?
The original Hebrew is the word re’em. What was a re’em? Scholars cannot agree. In the late Jewish author and skeptic Isaac Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, he offers this:
“The Hebrew word represented in the King James Version by ‘unicorn’ is re’em, which undoubtedly refers to the wild ox (an urus or an aurochs) which is ancestral to the domesticated cattle of today. Re’em still flourished in early historical times and a few existed into modern times, although it is now extinct. It was a dangerous creature of great strength and was similar in form and temperament to Asian water buffaloes.”
“A Virgin and a Unicorn” by Dominic Zampieri (1604)
Biblical scholar Bert Thompson, Ph.D., agrees. “When the first Greek translation of the Bible was prepared about 250 B.C., the re’em was already rare in the long-settled areas of the Near East. The Greeks, who had no direct experience with it, had no word for it.”