Black Rhinoceros

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Black Rhinoceros

Black Rhinoceros Scientific Classification

KingdomAnimaliaPhylumChordataClassMammaliaOrderPerissodactylaFamilyRhinocerotidaeGenusDicerosScientific NameDiceros Bicornis

Black Rhinoceros Conservation Status

Black Rhinoceros Locations

Black Rhinoceros Locations

Black Rhinoceros Facts

Main PreyGrass, Fruit, Berries, LeavesHabitatTropical bushland, grassland and savannasPredatorsHuman, Wild catsDietHerbivoreAverage Litter Size1Lifestyle

  • Solitary

Favorite FoodGrassTypeMammalSloganHorns can grow to 1.5m!

Black Rhinoceros Physical Characteristics


  • Brown
  • Grey
  • White

Skin TypeLeatherTop Speed40 mphLifespan45-50 yearsWeight800kg – 1,400kg (1,800lbs – 3,100lbs)Length3.3m – 3.6m (11ft – 12ft)

Black Rhinoceros Images

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With a population that numbered one million at the beginning of the 20th century, today the black rhino is Critically Endangered 

The black rhino once roamed across a vast range in Africa, but heavy poaching has brought the species to the brink of extinction. Today, the black rhino is seeing its population rebound and is slowly being reintroduced to countries and environments the species vanished from in recent decades. 

Incredible Black Rhinoceros Facts!

  • Although critically endangered, black rhino populations have rebounded since hitting a low of just an estimated 2,475 individuals in 1993.
  • The San Diego Zoo reports the black rhino can hit 40 miles per hour (64 km/hr), making it one of the fastest large animals on Earth!
  • While black rhino populations are rebounding, the Western black rhino subspecies was declared extinct in 2011

Black Rhinoceros Scientific Name

The scientific name for the black rhino is Diceros bicornis. Diceros is derived from Greek and means “two horned.” Bicornis once again means “two horned,” but is Latin. The black rhino is one of three rhinoceros species that has two horns (in addition to the white and Sumatran rhinos).

Black Rhinoceros Appearance

The black rhinoceros (also known as the hook-lipped rhinoceros) is a large species of rhinoceros native to Africa. Despite its name, the black rhinoceros is actually fairly light in color with most black rhinoceros individuals having either white or grey skin.

The black rhino weighs between 800 kg to 1,400 kg (1,800-3,100 lbs). On average, black rhinos weigh less than half the size of the other African rhino species, the white rhino. Their weight is similar to the Javan rhinoceros in Asia.

The most distinguishable physical characteristic on black rhinos is their upper lip, which is triangular and evolved to help the species eat from shrubs and bushes. In addition, black rhinos have a much smaller “hump” on their upper back than white rhinos.

The ears of the black rhinoceros possess a relatively wide rotational range to detect sounds and an excellent sense of smell. However, with its relatively poor eyesight, the black rhino will often charge when startled as a defense mechanism. Black rhinos have been seen charging objects ranging from trees, to cars, to passing trains.

Black Rhino Horn

The black rhino has a front horn that can reach incredible lengths relative to its body size. While most black rhino horns don’t exceed 24 inches (61 cm), the longest ever recorded black rhino horn was 55 inches (140 cm)!

The black rhino’s back horn is generally smaller. Like all rhinos, the horns of the black rhino is made from Keratin, a protein also found in fingernails and hair, and is extremely strong. In addition to defense black rhino horns provide intimidation and can help the animal dig up roots and even break branches during feeding.

The primary reason black rhino populations have been declining is poaching for its horn.

Black Rhinoceros Behavior

Compared to the white rhino, the black rhino is a much more solitary animal. The sociability of black rhinos varies by their habitat. In wide-open savannahs the species can be much more spread out, with a single black rhino in a range of up to 100 square kilometers. In more dense vegetation, their range can decline to one rhino per square kilometer.

Black Rhino Habitat

Historically, the black rhinoceros had a vast range across central and eastern Africa in countries including KenyaTanzaniaCameroonSouth AfricaNamibiaZimbabwe, and Angola.

Although the black rhinos range had been dramatically reduced across the 20thcentury, it is now being reintroduced into countries it was previously extinct in. For example, in 2017 18 black rhinos were reintroduced into Rwanda after having disappeared from the country a decade earlier.

The climate black rhinos live in can vary by sub-species. The South-western black rhino is more adapted to arid savannahs. As a species that prefers woody plants, the black rhino prefers environments with bushes and more leafy plants. Its prehensile upper lip aids in grasping from shrubs and higher growing vegetation.

Black Rhino Population — How Many Black Rhinos Are Left?

Today, the black rhinoceros is a “Critically Endangered” animal. Throughout much of the 20thcentury it saw its population decline at a rapid rate. However, thanks to continued conservation efforts, its population has rebounded from a low points in the early 1990s.

Black rhino population estimates across time

1900: 1,000,000

1960s: 70,000

1980: 10,000 to 15,000

1993: 2,475

2004: 3,600

2018: 5,500

While the black rhino historically was found across nearly all of sub-Saharan Africa outside the Congo basin, today its population is limited to a small number of countries. The World Wildlife Fund reports that 98% of the population is found in just four countries: South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Namibia.

Western Black Rhinoceros Extinction

Until recently there were four surviving subspecies of the black rhino:

  • South Western black rhino
  • Eastern black rhino
  • South central black rhino
  • Western black rhino

As of 1997, it was estimated only 10 Western black rhinos remained. A follow-on survey in 2001 was the last sighting of the species and it was officially declared extinct in 2011.

The Western black rhino once roamed across Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad. It’s possible black rhinos may one day be reintroduced to these countries, but their repopulation will come through different black rhino subspecies.

Black Rhino Diet

The black rhinoceros is a herbivorous animal meaning that it sustains itself on a purely plant based diet. Black rhinos browse the densely vegetated savanna for leaves, flowers, buds, fruits, berries and roots which they dig up from the ground using their horns.

In a study by the African Journal of Ecology, black rhino populations in three different national parks were found to eat 51, 53, and 41 plant species. However, in each park a majority of the black rhinos diet was found to come from just three types of plants.

The most common plants eaten by black rhinos include: zygophyllums, a type of flowered dwarf shrub. Acacia mellifera, a thorny shrub. And Euophorbia rectirama, a succulent leafless and spineless bush that stands 1 meter (3 ft.) high.

Black Rhinoceros Predators

Due to its large size, the black rhino’s only real predator in the wild are large wild cats such as lions that will prey on the black rhino calves and weak individuals. Humans are the biggest threat to the black rhinoceros as they have been hunted to the brink of extinction for their horns

Black Rhino Reproduction and Life Cycles

The black rhinoceros is a solitary animal and only comes together with other black rhinos to mate. The female black rhinoceros gives birth to a single calf after a gestation period that is over a yearlong (about 14-16 months). The World Wildlife Fund reports the longest observed gestation period at 478 days, a figure that’s 70 days shorter than the longest observed white rhino gestation period.

The black rhinoceros calf remains with its mother until it is at least 2 years old and big enough to become independent.

Black rhinos are generally believed to live up to 35 to 45 years in the wild, with the oldest black rhino in captivity living to be 52 before passing away at the Hiroshima zoo in 2018.

Black Rhinos in Zoos

As of 2018, 61 zoos were home to 184 black rhinos. That makes the black rhino the second most common rhino found in zoos after the white rhino.

Select zoos where you can see a black rhino in person!

  • Potter Park Zoo (Lansing, Michigan): Had a black rhino named Doppsee born in April, 2019
  • Saint Louis Zoo: As of 2019, 10 black rhino calves had been born at this zoo
  • Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago, Illinois): Welcomed a new calf in March, 2019.

Black Rhino Facts

  • The black rhino makes a return after nearly 50 years!
    • In October 2017 the governments of South Africa and Chad signed a memorandum of understanding to relocate 6 black rhinos to Chad. The black rhino was recorded in the country back in 1972. While the black rhino has seen its range significantly reduced across the past 100 years, thanks to reintroductions as of 2017 the species is now in 12 countries across Africa.
  • Innovative ways to stop poaching?
    • In 2015, a company named Pembient was announced with the mission of 3D printing rhino horns to flood markets and depressing the price of rhino horns. Other strategies have involved dying rhino horns pink to devalue them.
  • The most endangered subspecies left
    • After the Western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011, the most endangered remaining subspecies are the Eastern black rhinoceros. As of 2010, the IUCN estimates the remaining population at 740.

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