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Black Rhino Information

Black Rhino, side view Quick Black Rhino Information

Family: Rhinocerotidae (Rhinoceroses)
Scientific name: Diceros bicornis
Average shoulder height: 1.6 m
Weight: 800 - 1100 kg
Gestation period: 15 months
Life expectancy: 35-40 yrs


Photos: © Sharon Bishop

black rhino showing hooked lip Black rhino showing distinctive hooked lip

Note: The Rhino Information provided here applies specifically to the critically-endangered black rhinoceros, which is much less common and hence less frequently seen on safari than its counterpart, the larger and more placid white rhinoceros.

The black rhino, also known as the hooked-lipped rhino, has a barrel-shaped body and is smaller than the white rhino. Females (cows) are larger than the males (bulls) and can weigh up to a ton.

As is the case with the white rhino, the name "black rhino" is not related to the color of the animal's hide. The hide is in fact a dark gray color with lighter underparts and, like the white rhino, what you see is dependant on the color of the dust or mud in which it wallows.

The skin is as thick as 1.5 cm in places to protect the rhino against sharp grasses, plants and thorns.

The black rhino has two horns on the front of its face, with the front horn being longer. The tail is relatively short with a tuft of coarse hair at the tip.

Unlike the white rhino, the black rhino has no hump on its back and keeps its head in an upright position. Another major difference is the characteristic pointed or hooked upper lip which is prehensile - like a finger - and is suited to browsing the leaves and twigs off of trees (compared to the square lip of the white rhino which is suited to grazing grasses).

Behavior: The black rhino is a solitary animal except during mating season, or when calves need to be raised. The bulls are aggressive and often charge the moment they suspect trouble. This is because of their poor vision.

They are notoriously bad tempered, and are surprisingly fast and agile. They can reach speeds of up to 45km an hour.

Black rhinos do not fight over territories like their white counterparts, but instead they fight for a receptive cow.

In the heat of the day, black rhinos take refuge in dense thickets. They feed in the early mornings and late afternoons.

The dung, in comparison to the white rhino, is made-up of twigs and other coarse material which they ingest while browsing. Rhinos in general have very poor eyesight, and depend heavily on their acute sense of smell and hearing to recognise potential danger.

Reproduction: The black rhino has no fixed breeding season, and has only a single calf, which weighs up to 40 kg after a gestation period of 450 days (15 months). The calf either walks next to the mother or behind, which is opposite to the white rhino where the calf walks in front of the mother.

The calf can walk and feed three hours after birth, and stays with its mother for two to four years until it is chased away to fend for itself.

The black rhino uses its pointed upper lip to grasp twigs and shoots, which are either snapped off or cut through. It tends to reject dry plant material, and during the rains will occasionally eat grass.

The black rhino uses more sounds then the white rhino. These include a roar, which sounds almost like a lion, and a high pitched trumpeting when it fights. A drawn-out snort indicates anger, and a short snort indicates surprise. When the black rhino is scared it makes a high-pitched, crying noise.

The black rhinecoros is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List 2012 and listed on Appendix I of CITES. See also Rhino Poaching Crisis in South Africa

For additional facts about the black or hook-lipped rhino, see WWF Black Rhinoceros Info.

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