Black Rhino Diet

It is almost impossible not to play with a black rhino lip. The excess skin on the nose creates smooshworthy folds and the prehensile lip investigates every new object, wrapping around it and pulling it in for closer examination.  These traits, combined with the fact that black rhinos lack teeth in the front of their mouths, cause people to get complacent near the mouths of black rhinos and I know several people who have lost parts of fingers while hand-feeding rhinos.

The diet of black rhinos is made up of leaves, branches, twigs and forbs. They have been known to eat grass on occasion, but they are primarily browsers. A rhino’s prehensile, or hooked, lip allows him/her to grab leaves or branches and pull them into his/her mouth, similar to how an elephant uses her/his trunk.  The rhino will then bite the branch at a clean, 45-degree angle and use his/her powerful jaw and molars to chop each bit into smaller, more easily digestible pieces. A stringy bite that appears torn can often indicate a problem with the teeth or the period of time when the rhino’s deciduous teeth are being lost and her/his permanent teeth are coming in. 

Black rhino have premolars and molars, lacking incisors or other teeth at the front of their mouths.Teeth wear is one of the more accurate ways to determine the age of a rhino, though it can be difficult. Not only does one have to have a good, well-lit view of the rhino’s entire mouth, but knowledge and experience of wear patterns are also crucial.

These big, strong teeth and jaws, thick skin and saliva allow black rhinot o enjoy browse that many other species do not. Favorite browse species of black rhino include thorn trees like Acacia sp. and Dichrostachys sp. Eubphorbia sp., a special treat for black rhino, is toxic to some species and may cause blisters or irritation on the skin and in the eyes of humans. 






Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.