Rhinoceros, White

Ceratotherium simum

The white rhinoceros is the largest of all rhinos worldwide, twice as bulky as Africa’s black rhino. The mega-herbivore is also known as the square-lipped rhino due its 20 cm wide lips that it uses to crop grass.

The name is thought to have been a result of confusion as English speaking settlers misinterpreted the Dutch name for the animal as “white” instead of “wiyd” in reference to its wide mouth.

For more facts please take a look at the general rhino page and the black rhino species page.

The rhino is one of the Big Five. To find out how this term came about and the other four animals that make up the Big Five please check out our article: 25 astonishing facts about Africa’s Big 5.

Conservation status : Near threatened
Shoulder height : 1.8 m
Life span : Up to 45 years
Gestation : 16 months
Young : 1

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Because a white rhino’s diet is almost exclusively made up of grass it chews soil (geophagia) to extract the minerals that it craves.

Both male and female rhinos can squirt urine due to their backward facing genitalia. The male will do this 10 times an hour whilst out patrolling his territory.

Male white rhinos out number females at birth by 70%.

To aid digestion of its high fibre grass diet a white rhino will drink daily. However, it can go up to 4 days without drinking if they have to travel far to find water.

Courtship in white rhinos is a long drawn out affair with the prelude to mating lasting 14 to 20 days followed by 2 to 6 days spent together after the one off copulation.

Territorial white rhino bulls will tolerate other bulls coming on to their territory in search of water if they show submission and do not approach any females.

It is thought that the white rhino is so named because English speaking settlers misinterpreted the Dutch name of the animal. They thought people meant “white” when they were actually saying “wiyd” in reference to the wide mouth of the animal.

The white rhino crops grass using its 20 cm wide lips. It is an efficient machine severing the grass as it swings its head up in a semi-circular arc before stepping forward to repeat the process.