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Black Rhino - Diceros bicornis

The Black Rhinoceros is a herbivorous browser that belongs to the order of the Perissodactyla. It’s one of the two species of Rhinos native to Africa and it’s current range includes Southern and Eastern areas of Africa. There are about 3,610 Black Rhino still left in the wild, but it has been estimated that there were about 70,000 in the late 1960s. The Black Rhino has seen the most drastic decline of all rhino species, because of poaching and habitat loss. But due to conservation efforts numbers are stabilising and slowly rising, although tremendous effort is still needed to secure the future for the Black Rhino. There are four subspecies of Black Rhino, but the West African Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) is tentatively declared extinct.

Black Rhino Facts


General information

  • Weight: 800 - 1,350 kg (1,750 – 3,000 lbs)
  • Height (at shoulder): 1,4 – 1,7 m (4,5 -5,5 ft)
  • Length  (head and body): 3,0 – 3,8 m (10 – 12,5 ft)
  • Anterior Horn length: 0,5 – 1,3 m (1 ft; 8 in – 4 ft; 4 in)
  • Posterior Horn length: 0,02 – 0,55 m (1-22 in)
  • Lifespan in wild: 30 to 40 years
  • Lifespan in captivity: 35 years. The oldest recorded animal lived 44 years 9 months in a zoo.
  • Characterisitcs: pointed hooked upper lip (prehensile lip)

Black Rhino Behaviour

  • Black Rhinos may reach speeds of 50 km/h (28 m/h)
  • Black Rhinos are usually portrayed as the most aggressive of all Rhino Species
  • Males are mainly solitary and probably territorial.
  • Female home ranges overlap and are less solitary
  • Home range size dependent on habitat, sex and age and varies greatly
  • Black Rhinos browse for food in the morning and evening and sleep or wallow during the hottest part of the day.

Black Rhino Reproduction

  • Gestation period: around 15 to 16 months.
  • Birth intervals per calf:  2.5 to 4 years.
  • Female sexual maturity: at 4 to 7 years
  • Male sexual maturity: at 7 to 10 years
  • Newborn weaned: at 2 years

Black Rhino Distribution

  • Pre 20th century numbers: several hundred thousand.
  • Current numbers in wild: 3,610
  • Current numbers in captivity: At the end of 2004, there were 277 black rhinos in captivity. Through the past 200 years (until 1998), there have been 775 animals recorded in zoos, of which 292 were born in captivity
  • Habitat: grasslands, savannahs and tropical bushland.
  • Historic Natural Range: Southern and Eastern Africa (from Namibia, through Zambia up to Ethiopia, and all countries to the East) and in a East to west running belt from Ethiopia to Guinea (Southern edge of Sahara)
  • Current Range:  In several National Parks primarily located in Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania & Kenya.

Black Rhino Diet

  • Black Rhinos are browsers and primarily feed on leafy plants, branches & shoots
  • Black Rhinos are known to eat up to 220 different species of plant.
  • Black Rhinos can live up to 5 days without water.

Common Names

  • Black Rhinoceros: The term black was probably chosen to distinguish it from the White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), although both species are not distinguishable by colour.
  • Hook-Lipped Rhinoceros: The narrow upper lip of the Black Rhino is adapted to feeding from trees and bushes and is perfect for ripping of leaves.
  • Prehensile-Lipped Rhinoceros: Refers to the same characteristic hooked-upper lip.
  • Other names: view a list of Black Rhino Vernacular Names

Scientific Name


The scientific name for the Black Rhino is Diceros bicornis. Diceros being from the Greek di for “two” and ceros meaning “horn”. Bicornis is from the Latin bi for “two” and cornis meaning “horn”. Throughout history the Black Rhino has been referred to using quite a lot of different scientific names. View a list of Black Rhino Scientific names.



    The taxonomy of the subspecies of the black rhino remains unresolved and needs further study. There are two parallel views at present.

    Groves (1967) proposed the distinction of seven subspecies, based on a study of skeletal material, distribution and previous studies. This was amended to include an 8th subspecies by Groves & Grubb (2011):

  • Diceros bicornis bicornis, Western South Africa, Southern Namibia. Extinct since about 1800.
  • Diceros bicornis chobiensis, Angola, Botswana.
  • Diceros bicornis minor, Northern Namibia, Eastern South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Southern Uganda, Tanzania.
  • Diceros bicornis occidentalis, Northern Namibia.
  • Diceros bicornis michaeli, Eastern and Northern Kenya, Northern Tanzania.
  • Diceros bicornis bruciiSomalia, Ethiopia, Eastern Sudan.
  • Diceros bicornis ladoensisSouthern Sudan, Uganda, Western Kenya.
  • Diceros bicornis longipesWest African countries.
  • The African Rhino Specialist Group recommends the distinction of four subspecies based on a pragmatic view which probably ignores the extinct subspecies.

  • The South-central Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis minor) is the most numerous of all Black Rhino subspecies.
  • The South-western Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) is better adapted to dry climates and occurs in the arid savannas. The main difference with the others subspecies is the large and straight horn.
  • The East African Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) prefers highland forest and savanna habitat. It also has a longer, leaner, and curved horn and it’s skin is more grooved.
  • The West African Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) is the rarest and most endangered subspecies, with only 10 surviving in 2003. But on July 8, 2006 the subspecies was declared to be extinct.


Roosevelt 1913
Kuala Lumpur 1990
Thomas 1872
Bailleul 1876 Borele hunt
Theodore 1868
Wright rhino trophy
Boie 1826 South Africa
Magdeburg Mana #159
Paignton 2006
Kenya 1912
Flower 1889 three horns
Darix Togni
>> More Images

External Links

WWF: Black Rhino Info (hits:2382)
Extensive information by the World Wildlife Fund on the Black Rhino. Covers physiology, threats, habitat and much more.
The Department of Biodiversity & Conservation Biology (hits:1375)
Black rhino information by The Department of Biodiversity & Conservation Biology. A resource from the The University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

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