Let’s Make a Baby Rhino with Paper Mache

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African Animals Pattern Set.
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Since the weather won’t cooperate very well, and I don’t like gardening in the rain, I decided to make a baby rhino. I haven’t made a four-legged critter for a long time.

The pattern I’ll be using, (possibly with some changes as we go along), is shown above. If you want to make a baby rhino with me, I’ll be using the same techniques to transfer the pattern onto cardboard that I used when I made the snowy owl.

So far, I’ve drawn the pattern, above, and I’ve drawn a grid with 3″ squares on a large piece of cardboard. I estimate that the finished baby rhino will be about 2 feet tall. It will be a challenge getting the crazy rhino feet to look realistic, and it will take some work to get all the nice skin folds in the right places.

Baby rhinos don’t have horns, which is a bit disappointing. Maybe I’ll make a momma rhino someday to go with the baby, but I have to wait for good weather for something that big. I don’t think I could get a full-sized adult rhinoceros through my door, and she would take up half my living room.

Let's Make a Baby Rhino with Paper Mache
Baby Rhino Pattern for Paper Mache Sculpture

Baby Rhino Pattern for Paper Mache Sculpture
There will be two major differences between this project and the baby elephant. First, I’ll use a cardboard pattern instead of the particle board that I used for Elsie to reduce the weight. To strengthen the armature, I’ll use some heavy wire on the legs. A full-sized adult rhino would probably need rebar to make it strong enough, but this little guy should be fine with the wire I have on hand.

The other big difference is that I’ll use paper mache clay instead of the many layers of paper and paste that I used on the elephant. I may still use one final layer of paper towels for the skin because it gives such realistic bumps. Or maybe not — we’ll figure that out when we get to it.

And one final difference (that makes three, doesn’t it?) I think I’ll order some of that Powertex textile hardener so the baby rhino can go outside. It’s been recommended by a number of people and I want to see how it works. Since the clear formula isn’t weatherproof, I’ll need to choose between bronze, ivory, terra cotta or lead. Lead would probably match the real critter the best, but I haven’t really decided yet – another thing to worry about later.

OK – now I need to go transfer that pattern onto my cardboard. As soon as the armature is standing up and ready for some crumpled paper, I’ll let you see how he’s coming along. If you start a rhino, be sure to let us see your progress photos, too. And remember to keep those Practical Paper Mache ideas coming.

21 thoughts on “Let’s Make a Baby Rhino with Paper Mache”

    • Hi Barb. I totally forgot about this pattern! you can get the pattern by downloading the image – on a PC you’d right-click on the image and choose “Save Image As.” Then you can make it larger with the grid, or just print on bigger paper. I never finished this project, but now that you reminded me of it, I might do that. I can’t remember why I got distracted, but something else must have come up that looked like more fun at the time. 🙂

  1. On the baby rhino page, it refers to a pattern that I’m not seeing. Am a lost? has it been moved?

    Help Jonni, please.

    P.S. I love your books I have bought “How to Make Tiny Paper Mache Dogs….” and “Making Animal Sculptures ….”. I love them both. I love the care and understanding you put into each word.

    • Hi Kimber. I just checked and the pattern was at the very top of the page, but since it was set up as a featured image it wasn’t easy to save it or print. Sorry about that. I added another copy to the article, and you should now be able to see it above. If you can’t, just refresh the page. And by the way, did you see the rhino Rex made from this pattern?

  2. I’ve got a several projects to finish up before I can start something new so it will be a week at least until I can start my little rhino.

  3. Yippee! It worked. I now have a copy of the pattern and can’t wait to get started. Thanks again for being the problem solver.

    • It sounds like you may get your rhino done before I do! However, I’m inside again (no fun digging in the dirt when it’s snowing!) so I’ll get back to my rhino now. I have ideas for using the wire and I can’t wait to see how it works out.

  4. Great website. I look forward to every new post!

    How do you plan on using the Powertex? As a overall sealer once all the papermache has been done, or dipping strips like they suggest? I emailed their competitor, Paverpol, a while back (have not rec’d a response) asking if their product could be used as a sealant coat instead of with fabric strips. And if so, would it still be weatherproof. I am curious as to what you know about these products — anyone, please chime in!! I would really want to use it as more of a sealer than using it with fabric strips.

    Thank you,


    • I believe that the Powertex can be applied at the end, over the sculpture. I will be using the paper mache clay so I won’t have any strips of paper.

      The Canadian distributor sent me this info:

      You can “paint” Powertex over your paper layer as long as the paper is not sealed with a varnish or other man made product. The Powertex will penetrate and bond with the paper. This would not require any varnish, however if you add paint on top of Powertex, you would need to protect the paint by varnishing with a good marine or outdoor varnish. If an additional layer of protection is required, you can dip a natural cloth, like cotton and cover your papier mache sculpture.

      The clay is not as absorbent as paper strips and paste, so we won’t know if it works until we try it.

      • Thanks for the quick response!

        I am anxious to try this out as well. I don’t use strips, either. I have been using Fast Mache (commercial product you mix with water) since I don’t want to use all my limited crafting time mixing batches of your clay, though I may someday when my time is not so limited. But for now the Fast Mache suits my needs and I like the quick drying time.

        You may be interested to know that a couple of years ago I made a relief pumpkin sculpture with newspaper, masking tape, and Celluclay. It was painted with acylic paints and sealed with Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish. I put it outdoors in a somewhat protected area on my porch, under a slight overhang. It did get wet some when the rain came at an angle. But it seems to be ok, with no sign of damage or mold after a couple of Octobers outside. I may have done a couple of coats of the varnish.

        I just mention this because I like to use only non-toxic art materials whenever possible. Marine/spar varnish wouldn’t fit the bill for that, I believe. I am hopefull with this Powertex stuff, the main purpose of which would be protecting the actual paper mache, while the acrylic Gloss varnish would protect the paint. It also has UV protectors.

        I have also considered using the paint that is meant for sealing masonry / basement walls for waterproofing as a protective underlayer as opposed to the Powertex/Paverpol. Has anyone tried that? I am sure it is not non-toxic, but is readily-available in any home improvement store. Also is less expensive than these specialty art-products.

        I am looking forward to hearing about your experience with the Powertex since it is quite expensive… please keep us updated!!

        Thanks much,


        • The masonry sealer sounds like a good idea. I haven’t thought of that, although I’ve considered the stuff for sealing decks. Both are much less expensive than the Powertex, which is not available locally. I will definitely let you know how my experiment turns out.

  5. Thanks for visiting Santa and the Mrs. and for the compliment on Bunny.
    No, I haven’t thought of selling them. I am however thinking about trying to make the baby rhino now that you’ve pointed out the obvious size solution. Now I’ve got a question for you. How do I get a copy of the pattern grid from above? I tried the copy/paste method but nada.

    • I think you can click on the image to get the larger size, then right-click and save the image to your computer. You should be able to print it from there.

  6. Jonni, the rhino baby looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun and work. It will be interesting to see how many of your readers will follow you in the process of making one. I’d love to give it a try but don’t know if I would have room for a project that size. So far my largest peice has been only 15″ tall and about 6″ at it’s widest point. Since I started working with Jonniclay 3 1/2 months ago I’ve made 29 pieces. I wanted to thank you for providing me the means to express myself artistically. If you’d like to see some of what I’ve done, I’ve started a blog to share my creations with others. Come for a visit and see what you’ve started. I’d like to see what you think. Here’s where my work can be found: http://santaandthemrs.blogspot.com/

    • Great website, Maddy.

      You can make the rhino any size you want. With a three inch grid it should be about 24 inches tall. (I’ll know the final height for sure once the armature’s put together). Smaller squares make a smaller rhino.

      I really like that little bunny on your website. Do you sell them?

  7. Hi Jonni,
    Do you know of a good on-line source for 3-d molds, like candy molds? I want to make the old fashioned statues–like chicks, birds, christmas, etc. I have been looking, but they are scarce.
    I would appreciate any help you could give me!


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