Black Rhinoceros

Black Rhinoceros Characteristics

The Black rhinoceros (Diceros Bicornis), is sometimes called the ‘Hooked-lip rhino’. The rhinoceros is a mammal in the order Perissodactyla and is native to the eastern and central areas of Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Although the Rhino is referred to as black, it is actually more of a grey-white colour in appearance. It will sometimes take on the colour of the soil that it lives around.


The Black Rhinos habitats are mostly bushy plains, rugged hills and scrub lands.

An adult Black Rhinoceros stands 140 – 170 centimetres (57.9 – 63 inches) high at the shoulder and is 3.3 – 3.6 metres (10.8 – 11.8 feet) in length. An adult weighs from 800 to 1400 kilograms (1,760 to 3,080 pounds), some may weigh 1820 kilograms (4,000 pounds), with the females being smaller than the males. The rhinos two horns on their skull are made of keratin with the larger front horn typically 50 centimetres long, some can measure up to 140 centimetres. Sometimes, a third smaller horn may develop. These horns are used for defence, intimidation and digging up roots and breaking branches during feeding.

The Black rhino is smaller than the White rhino and is more agile in movement. Black Rhinos can still show considerable bouts of aggression, even though they are mainly shy and solitary animals. Black Rhinos tend to live alone, except when breeding and raising offspring.

Black rhinos have a ‘prehensile’ lip – ‘prehensile’ meaning – adapted for grasping and holding. The Black Rhinos prehensile lip is used much like a finger to select and pick the twigs and leaves that they prefer.

The Black Rhinos skin harbours many external parasites, which are eaten by birds such as the ox peckers and egrets that live with the rhino.

Black Rhinoceros Diet

The Black Rhinoceros is a herbivore that eats leafy plants, branches, shoots, thorny wood bushes and fruit. The Black Rhinos diet helps to reduce the amount of woody plants which results in more grasses growing for the benefit of other animals.

Black Rhinoceros Vocalisation

The Black Rhino has a wide vocal range and can possibly communicate the same way as an elephant can by frequencies well below the range of human hearing. Breathing is also an important part of rhino communication.

Black Rhinoceros Behaviour

Black Rhinos are heavy browsers that restrict woody plants from over-growing in their habitat. This is important because it allows grasses to grow which provides food for many other animals on the grassy plains.

Black Rhinos have a tendency to attack just about anything, this is because of their poor eyesight. Black Rhinos have been known to attack trees and rocks by mistake. They rely heavily on their strong sense of smell and well developed hearing. If it catches a smell of an unfamiliar presence, then it will instinctively charge mistaking it as a threat. Most of their ‘charges’ are bluffs but because they act in this way, they have been given a bad reputation as being aggressive and dangerous. Black Rhinos do however, live in harmony with other animals generally. Black Rhinos will attack other animals though if their territory is threatened, they also fight amongst themselves. Black Rhinos will fight each other over territory and females – even courting males and females sometimes fight one another. Black Rhinos use the larger of their two horns as a weapon when fighting. Sometimes it can break off, however, this regenerates and grows back eventually.

Black Rhinoceros Reproduction

Adult Black Rhinoceroses are solitary in nature, coming together only for mating. Mating does not have a seasonal pattern, however, births tend to be towards the end of the rainy season in drier environments.

The gestation period of a female Black rhino is 16 months. She will give birth to one single calf. The calf will weigh about 100 pounds at birth.


Female Black rhinos will use their horns to protect their young from predators such as lions and hyenas. Although they are fierce, Black rhinos do have a softer side.

Black rhino mothers are very affectionate towards their young and will look after them for years, protecting them and teaching them how to survive independently. Unlike a White rhino calf, a Black rhino calf will run behind its mother. Young Black rhinos will live with their mother until another sibling is born, they are about 2 years old when this happens and are almost adult size and ready to go off and live independently.

Black Rhinoceros Life Span

The overall life span of the Black rhino is between 25 – 40 years, in captivity they live a little longer because they are more protected – usually to about 45 years old.

Black Rhinoceros Anatomy

Black Rhinoceros Conservation Status

Conservation Status: Critically Endangered. People of some cultures believe that rhino horn contains medicinal properties. This is most likely not true, however, this is one of the main reasons rhinos are poached. There are fewer than 2,550 black rhinos alive today. All five species of rhino are in danger of extinction.

Subspecies of Black Rhinoceros

There are 3 subspecies of black rhino, the South-central rhino (Diceros bicornis minor), which is the most numerous and once ranged from central Tanzania south through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to northern and eastern South Africa.

The South-western rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) which is better adapted to the arid and semi-arid savannas of Namibia, southern Angola, western Botswana and western South Africa.

The East African rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli), primarily in Tanzania.

The West African rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes), the World Conservation Union (IUCN) announced on 7 July 2006 that the West African Black Rhinoceros has been tentatively declared as extinct.