There are two extant* species of rhino native to Africa: the black and white rhino. These thick-skinned herbivores are some of the largest remaining megafauna on the planet, with each species capable of exceeding over 1 tonne in weight.
*extant means living, as opposed to the direction some rhinos are travelling, which is towards extinction!
Some Quick Rhino Facts
- There are three other extant species of rhino, which are all native to Southern
Asia: the Sumatran, Javan and Indian rhino.
- Both African species and the Sumatran rhino have two horns, whilst the Javan
and Indian rhino have just one.
- All rhino are at huge risk from illegal poaching. By weight, their horns fetch as
much as gold on the black market.
- Rhino have poor eyesight but a good sense of smell and hearing.
- The black rhino is the fastest of all rhino, with a top speed of up to
- The white rhino is second only to the elephant in terms size of land mammals.
- There are around 4,800 black rhino and 20,000 white rhino surviving in the
- Black rhinos have doubled in number over the last 20 years. This is still a
fraction of the estimated 100,000 that existed in the early 20th century. They
are classified as Critically Endangered.
- Once on the brink of extinction with only 50 individuals left in the wild,
Southern subspecies of white rhino is now doing well in protected areas and
game reserves. They are classified as Near Threatened.
- Of all the African rhino sub-species, the Northern white rhino is the most
Critically Endangered - technically extinct in the wild, there are only a few
individuals remaining under close protection in Kenya.
Black or White Rhino?
It is relatively simple to tell black and white rhino apart once you know the difference! Their names have nothing to do with their colour. They are both grey and have two horns with the main differences are the shape of their mouths, their build and social behaviour. It is likely that the term 'white rhino' derives from the South African pronunciation of 'wide-lipped rhino'.
Black rhino tend to eat woody trees, shrubs and herbs and so have a narrower, almost pointed upper lip which they use to twist off low-growing branches, while the white rhino is a grazer and has a wider mouth. White rhino are also slightly taller and heavier (up to 1.8m and over 2 tons) than the black rhino (up to 1.6m and 1,400kg) - but don't get out the tape measure! White rhino have larger heads, longer necks and longer tails and have a generally sloping shape (hips are lower than the shoulders) as opposed to the black rhino who have a slightly dipped back. Black rhino tend to be solitary and are shyer, while white rhino tend to live in small groups.