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Black rhinos are the smaller of the two species of African rhinos and are shyer and more aggressive than their white counterparts.  Just like white rhinos, their name has nothing to do with their actual skin colour. There are a few theories as to how they got their name, the most obvious (and less interesting) simply being black is the opposite of white!

Black rhinos differ slightly in body shape to white rhinos too.  Their natural head posture faces upwards and their mouths are pointy which aids with foraging and plucking leaves and branches, lending them the nickname “hook-lipped” rhino.  

Black rhinos are often found in dense vegetation and unlike white rhinos who will use their horns to guide their young who walk in front of them, black rhinos will run in front of their young to clear a pathway.

Scientific name:

Diceros bicornis


Hook lipped rhino


Eastern black - Diceros bicornis michaeli  

Southwestern - Diceros bicornis bicornis

South central - Diceros bicornis minor

Western black - Diceros bicornis longipes

IUCN conservation status:

Eastern black - Critically endangered (CR)

Southwestern - Critically endangered (CR)

South central - Critically endangered (CR)

Western black - Extinct

CITES appendix status:

Appendix. I

Wild population:

Eastern black - 700 (estimated)

Southwestern - 1500 (estimated)

South central - 2000 (estimated


Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland and Botswana


Tropical and Subtropical Grasslands, Savannahs, Deserts and Shrublands

The black rhino is a browser (the pointy/hooked lip aids with plucking leaves and branches)


Leafy plants, branches, shoots, thorny wood bushes and fruit although about 40% of their diet comes from grass

Average height:

1.4 - 1.7 meters

Average weight:

800kg - 1350kg

Average length:

3 - 3.8 meters

Skin colour:

Dark grey

Average horn length:

Front horn: 54cm to 134cm (but they can be longer)

Rear horn: 2.5cm - 56cm


Up to 50km/h (running)




Shyer and more aggressive than white rhinos and territorial

Average lifespan:

30 - 40 years


15 - 16 months

Birth intervals:

2.5 - 4 years

Sexual maturity:

4 -7 years (females)

7 - 10 years (males)

Fun facts:

Black rhino calves stay with their mother until about 3 years of age

They feed more at night when it is cooler

The scientific name, Diceros bicornis is a combination of two Latin words "bi" meaning "two", and "cornis" meaning "horn"

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