White Rhinoceros - Ceratotherium simum

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White Rhinoceros - Ceratotherium simum | Black Rhinoceros - Diceros bicornis


Afrikaans Witrenoster
Zulu uMkhombe
Tswana Tshukudu Shona Chipembere
Photo Kobus Hugo
R.W. Min 28" Max 62"
S.C.I Min 70" Max 111⅜" Measurement Method 2

wpe2B.jpg (10062 bytes)

30 cm
Distinguishable from Black Rhinoceros track by "W" (for white rhino) formed by back of track


12 cm
Deposited in middens
Contains undigested grass

Unusual features/differences from similar animals

Southern Africa's second largest land mammal. The muzzle is broad, the lips wide and square whereas the upper lip is pointed in Black Rhinoceros. The front the base of the first horn forms a straight line but it is round in the Black Rhinoceros. The ears have small points and a sparse fringe of hair but those of the  Black Rhinoceros are rounded with a fringe of thick hair.

Visible Male/Female Differences

Males have a thick fold of skin running down between the backs of the hind legs. Horns are longer and thinner in cows.  Females have a pair of nipples between their hind legs.

Habitat and Distribution

Requires grassland, thick cover and water in close proximity and prefers flat or gently undulating terrain.


A selective grazer with a preference for short, fresh growth. Sometimes eats soil to obtain minerals.


A single calf weighing 40 kg is born at any time of year after a gestation of 16 months. Calves are weaned at 12-18 months, sometimes as late as 2 years, and stay with the mother for 2-3 years. They are sexually mature at 4-5 years. Males establish a territory and mate after 12 years. The sex is ratio is 173 males to 100 females born. Expected lifespan is 40-45 years . Calves very occasionally fall prey to lions and spotted hyenas. Cows give birth in heavy cover and calves are not fully mobile for three days during which time they remain hidden with the mother grazing nearby.

Behavior and Habits

Spends about 50% of the time feeding. Active at any time of the day or night, but tends to avoid the midday heat and cold weather by lying in cover. They drink water every day if available but can the go for four days between drinks in dry periods. Whit rhinos love to wallow in water and mud to cool down and kill remove parasites. They rub on trees, rocks and termite mounds. "Scratchpoles" develop a polish from long use. White rhino eyesight is not good acute but hearing and smell are very sensitive.

Females with young live in overlapping home ranges of 6-8 square km but have larger ranges if conditions are bad. White Rhinoceros calves walk in front of the mother but calves walk behind the mother in the Black Rhinoceros. Mature bulls are solitary. Territories cover 1-11 square km which they scent-mark by spraying urine backwards onto bushes as well as marking borders with dung deposited in middens. After defecating on the midden the bull kicks the dung around vigorously. Young males kick the midden only weakly and females do not kick it at all. Adjacent territories may share a midden. It has been found that white rhino middens may also be used by Black Rhinoceroses.

Neighbours meet on their common boundary, rub their horns on the ground an stand head to head pushing sideways against each other's horns. Territorial bulls in territories without water will leave every 3-4 days to drink and pass through other territorial bulls' areas. When confronted by the territorial bull they squeal and shriek, holding their ears back to demonstrate their submission. This placates the territorial bull which then allows the thirsty traveler to proceed. When not on their own territories, bulls urinate in the same way as subordinates which is not spraying the urine backwards between the legs.

White rhino fights are usually over territory or females and involve horn fencing with vicious stabs to the body which can be fatal. Half of all male deaths is due to fighting. The 25 mm thick skin provides protection during fights. Bulls that are defeated by challengers may be allowed to keep on living on their lost territories if they continue to behave submissively.  White Rhino are more even-tempered than the Black Rhinoceros. White rhino cows with calves are fiercely protective. They can charge at 40 km/h.


Snorting and snarling with the ears back is a signal to keep the distance, panting is an invitation to move closer. Squealing and shrieking are submissive signals but also occur during fights and when a bull is herding a female into his territory. Calves also squeal when frightened.

Dung and Field sign

The back of the White rhino track forms a "W" (for white rhino). There is no indentation at the back of the Black Rhinoceros track. Dung is dark, deposited in middens and contain undigested grass fragments. Black Rhinoceros dung contains twigs. Mud smears on trees, termite mounds and rocks; polished rubbing spots.

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