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African Rhinoceros

African Rhinoceros Facts / Black Rhino & White Rhino Facts

Size 62-73 inches (160-180 cm) (shoulder height)
Speed Up to 31 mph (50 km/h)
Weight 1,760-5,070 pounds (800-2,300 kg)
Lifespan 35-50 years
Food Plants
Predators -
Distribution Africa
Habitat Savannah, bushland, desert
Order Odd-toed ungulates
Family Rhinoceroses
Scientific name Rhinocerotidae
Characteristics Large ungulate with two horns on its nose

Main Characteristics

Rhinos are large, heavy hoofed animals. The most striking feature about them is the presence of two horns on their nose. In Africa, there are two species: the white rhinoceros and the black rhinoceros. They prefer savannas and bushland as their habitat. The biggest threat to the animals is illegal hunting. This is why the black rhinoceros is threatened with extinction.

White Rhinoceros White Rhinoceros - Photo: Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock


The two African species are called black and white rhino. They can be easily distinguished by the shape of their mouths. While the black rhino is hook-lipped, the white rhinoceros is square-lipped.


Distribution and Habitat

White and black rhinos are mainly found in South Africa. They prefer open forests, savannas and bushland as a habitat.

Life Style

African rhinos are diurnal. They usually live a solitary life. Only the mothers and their calves maintain a close bond for many years. The white rhino is an exception as they form small herds consisting of up to 15 members.

Black Rhinoceros Black Rhinoceros - Photo: Cathy Withers-Clarke/Shutterstock

Anatomy and Appearance

Size and Weight

• White Rhino

Male white rhinos weigh 4,400-5070 pounds (2,000-2,300 kg). It is said that they can even weigh up to 9,920 pounds (4,500 kg), but there hasn't been any official confirmation of such a hefty weight yet. Females weigh 3,520-3,747 pounds (1,600-1,700 kg). Their body length is around 130-157 inches (330-400 cm) and their shoulder height is 62-73 inches (160-186 cm).

• Black Rhino

When it comes to black rhinos, the bulls weigh up to 3,080 pounds (1,400 kg) and the cows weigh up to 1,760-1,980 pounds (800-900 kg). Their body length is about 137 inches (350 cm) and their shoulder height is about 62 inches (160 cm). 



• How Many Horns Do They Have?

African rhinos have two horns. The front horn emerges from the nasal bone, the back horn from the front part of the skull.

• What Are They Made From?

Although their horns are hard as concrete, they do not consist - as is sometimes said - of bone, but (as the name implies) of horn. It is the same material that our hair is made up from, but it is significantly denser and tougher.

• How Long and Heavy Are They?

The longest currently known horn had a length of 62.2 inches (158 cm). Usually, their horns only grow to 15-23 inches (40-60 cm) long and weigh 3-9 pounds (1,5-4 kg).


Although African rhinos are large and heavy, their brains only weigh 14-21 ounces (400-600 g). The human brain, on the other hand, weighs 3 pounds (1.4 kg). But: That doesn't mean they're stupid. There is more information about this topic in our article about intelligence in the animal kingdom.


The skin is gray to gray-brown. It is 0.8-2 inches (2-5 cm) thick and protects them from sharp thorns or sharp-edged leaves.

White or Black Rhino – What’s the Difference?


The most noticeable difference between the white and the black rhino is the mouth. The white rhino is square-lipped and the black rhino is hook-lipped.


White rhinos are significantly larger and heavier than black rhinos. Their body is longer and is more barrel-shaped. Black rhinos are overall shorter and more compact.

Black and White Rhinoceros Black and White Rhinoceros - Photo: Michael Potter11/Shutterstock (left), Nick Dale/ (right)


African rhinos are herbivores. They require more than 110-120 pounds (45-55 kg) of plants daily to satisfy their hunger. After digesting their meal, they naturally have to let it out... Rhinos produce over 44 pounds (20 kg) of dung each day.


Behavior Rhinos Are Territorial

The territory of an African rhinoceros is only 8 square miles (20 square kilometers) in size. Nevertheless, they stay in their territory even if the living conditions become worse for them. They only explore new areas together with a close buddy.

Are Rhinos Aggressive?

Rhinos are commonly depicted as aggressive and dangerous animals. During their clashes with other rhinos, they can inflict severe injuries upon one another, even breaking their own horns. In some unfortunate instances, the rival rhino may even lose its life. However, apart from these confrontations, the animals lead a rather quiet, peaceful life.

Fighting With Each Other

Rhinos may occasionally harm one another and lose a horn, but it's uncommon for them to have dangerous encounters with other rhinos. This is mainly because their eyesight is quite poor. Initially, they may charge towards each other at top speed, but more often than not, they halt just before any harm is done. If the rhinos recognize each other as friendly or if there's no need to fight, they call off the attack.

Are Rhinos Dangerous to Humans?

African rhinos have a keen sense of smell, and when they detect a human presence, they tend to retreat. Nevertheless, there are two scenarios where an attack on a human might still happen: if the wind is against them and they get startled, or if they feel cornered or threatened. The behavior of a rhino is highly unpredictable, especially for those who lack experience in handling these animals. Such an encounter can pose a severe threat to humans, potentially causing severe harm or even death.

Why Do Rhinos Have Horns?

African rhinos need their horns to defend themselves, intimidate others, dig up roots or break branches.

White Rhinoceros White Rhinoceros - Photo: Tom/

Senses and Abilities

Top Speed

Rhinos are surprisingly speedy creatures. They run across the steppe at speeds of up to 31 mph (50 km/h), which is pretty impressive considering how slow they appear. 


African rhinos have very poor eyesight. Their vision is limited to a distance of 100 feet (30 meters). Their sense of hearing and smell is excellent.

Black Rhinoceros Black Rhinoceros - Photo: 2630ben/Shutterstock

Life Expectancy

African rhinos live to be 40-50 years old in the wild.

Enemies and Threats

Natural Enemies

An adult African rhinoceros has no predators. Sometimes Hyenas and wild dogs attack them, but they only dare to do so, if it is a calf, an injured or an old rhino.

Human Impact

• Reasons for Poaching

The biggest threat to the two African rhino species is poaching. It's illegal to hunt them, but that doesn't stop poachers from doing it anyway. It's not about the meat, it's about the horns. The demand for these horns in Asia is immense. They are used for crafting daggers or creating so-called "medicine." Two pounds (one kilogram) of horn fetches 32,000-69,000 dollars (30,000-65,000 euros) on the black market.

• Consequences of Poaching

The animals often suffer fatal injuries while being hunted, and the poachers show no concern for the animals' survival. This has led to the extinction of the black rhinoceros and the northern white rhinoceros. The demand for horns is incredibly high, to the point where they are even being stolen from museums.

Population and Conservation Status


How many black and white rhinos are left? Here are the current numbers for both black and white rhinos:

• Black Rhino

The black rhino is not yet extinct, but is considered “critically endangered.” The number of animals continues to decline. According to a count by the IUCN in 2020, only 3,142 animals are still alive.

• Southern White Rhino

In 1893, the southern white rhino was considered extinct. However, by a lucky coincidence, a small population of 10 animals was found alive. Every single southern white rhino we have today can be linked back to those 10 individuals. Thanks to dedicated breeding efforts, the population has rebounded to 10,000 animals, according to an IUCN estimate from 2020 (as of December 2023).

• Northern White Rhino

The northern white rhino had a less fortunate fate. Sudan, the final male, passed away on March 19, 2018, at a reserve in Kenya. At present, there are only two surviving individuals, both females residing in a zoo located in the Czech Republic. Regrettably, due to medical reasons, they are unable to reproduce. Moreover, there are no animals left in the wild. Therefore, the northern white rhinoceros is considered functionally extinct.

Protective Measures

Why Are There Rhinos With Cut Horns?

African rhinos are hunted and killed for their horns. That's why (living) animals are dehorned by gamekeepers to protect them from poachers. Without the horns, the animals are of no interest to poachers.

White Rhinoceros White Rhinoceros - Photo: Karen Hadley/Shutterstock

Importance To the Ecosystem

African rhinos have a particular taste for certain types of grass. And they eat plenty of it! As a result, other plant species have enough space to thrive. They play a crucial role in enhancing the variety of plant species in their habitat, which is essential for the survival of other animal species like zebras, gazelles, and antelopes.


Birds like oxpeckers and cattle egrets can frequently be observed hopping around on rhinos. They search for a tasty treat. As parasites such as mites and ticks make their homes in the rhino's skin, these birds happily pick them off, providing themselves with a satisfying snack.

White Rhinoceros White Rhinoceros - Photo: Jurgens/


African rhinos give birth to their young approximately every two years. The baby rhino, weighing between 55-130 pounds (25-60 kg), is born after a gestation period of 15-18 months. Within just a few hours, the newborn can already walk and keep up with its mother. As time goes by, the baby rhino grows and matures, reaching adulthood at around 4-6 years old.

Fun Facts

The square-lipped rhino is also the white rhino, because the Dutch term for "wide" or "broad" was misinterpreted: "wijde" finally became "white". In turn, the hook-lipped rhino was simply named black rhino.

The African Rhinoceros Is Related To:

Animals in the Same Biome:

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