Huge yet agile, heavily armored yet arboreal, the Tree Rhinoceros is known for the difficulty of the hunt and also the flavor of the meat. Too mean to domesticate, Tree Rhinos are nonetheless favored feasting animals among the giants of Brunivard. For high holidays and feasts of honor, a great hall will have a central table with a formal display of the head of the Tree Rhinoceros, surrounded by the various cuts of meat and traditional side dishes in a festive display. The giants relish the hunt for the beasts, and make an effort to maintain Tree Rhinoceros habitat in order to preserve their favorite meals.
A massive quadruped, the adult Tree Rhinoceros stands 4 meters, more or less, at the shoulder. They have heavily armored plates on the outer portions of their bodies, though the skin of their bellies is merely very thick. Two central horns extend their snouts, used for digging roots and for defense. They have claws on their forelegs to allow them to grip the trunks of trees and dewclaws on the inside of their hind legs that can brace against the trunks as they climb. This arrangement allows Tree Rhinos to easily go up, but backing down a tree trunk in this way is more clumsy. It is common for Tree Rhinos to dismount trees by diving off them and using their ability to adjust their weight to land safely on the ground. (You may also see them diving from great heights into the rivers from overhanging trees. Since the species is herbivorous, it is clear this is not for catching fish. They appear to do it for fun.) Warning: Tree Rhinos will use this same technique to attack predators or intruders who get too close to a roost, falling on them from great height and crushing them, with relative safety for the Tree Rhino, due to its armor plates and ability to fall from great height without hurting itself.
Genetics and Reproduction
Tree Rhinos gather every other year near to mate. Both males and females will fight in the shallow water at the edges of the slow rivers in the jungle. The area will become churned into a giant mud wallow as the mating hierarchy is sorted out. The strongest male and strongest female will pair up, the second strongest likewise, and a few more pairings in each troop. The rest of the gathered Tree Rhinos will not find any mates that they feel are strong enough, and will disperse back into the jungle.
Growth Rate & Stages
Tree Rhinos produce one offspring at a time, and gestation takes 400 days (on the order of three Brunivard years). Young stay with their parents for another five years before they are sexually mature and ready to breed, though it might be two or three more years before they are strong enough to compete in the mating battles. Their natural lifespan is around 50 years. As their reflexes slow and their control over their own weight becomes less nuanced, they typically fall to predation rather than disease.
Ecology and Habitats
The Brunivard Tree Rhinoceros is a strange set of contradictions. They are massive herbivores, heavily armored against the hostile jungle environment, yet agile climbers. They manage this through a series of internal organs which somehow allow them to change how affected they are by the forces of gravity. Any given Tree Rhinoceros can choose how much to weigh at any time. This allows them to climb trees with some skill, despite their size. They can also jump surprisingly high in order to dodge incoming attacks, then slam down on an attacker. They roost in the heights of the Brunivard Sequoia, a towering thickly-trunked native to the wettest parts of the Brunivard Jungle. They do not eat the leaves of the sequoia itself, but instead on the fruit and foliage of the smaller surrounding trees.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
In addition to the meat being delicious, Tree Rhinoceros armor is resistant to the sting of the Jungle Wyvern. Giants will use panels of the armor to craft shields, bracers, or forms of plate armor to protect hunters in the jungle from ambush by the wyverns.
Brunivard giants are concerned about over-hunting the Tree Rhinoceros and no longer hunt them casually. The tribes have agreed that certain stands of Brunivard Sequoias should remain un-logged, and the Tree Rhinos in those stands will only be hunted for ceremonial feasts.