Black Rhino


Common Name: Black Rhinoceros
Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Rhinoceridae
Genus: Diceros
Species: Diceros bicornis

photo:  M Noonan

Black Rhino Taxonomy/Description

The Black rhino's scientific name is Diceros bicornis, which means "two-horned, two-horn".  The Black rhinoceros is a member of the rhino family, Rhinoceridae in the Mammalian Order of Perissodactyla. All other living species of rhino are also members of Rhinoceridae. Other Perissodactyls include tapirs and horses. 

The Black rhino is closely related to the White rhino. Similarities between the two species are quite obvious. Unlike the two of the Asian rhino species (Indian and Javan), the Black rhino and White rhino have two horns. The Sumatran rhino, although it has two horns, differs due to its coat of shaggy brown hair. The Black rhino, like the White rhino, lacks front teeth, differing from the three Asian species, which all have incisors. The Sumatran rhino also retains its canines. Although called the 'black', this rhino is actually dark gray, about the same shade as its close relative, the White rhino. 'Black' was probably used to describe this animal because it appears very dark due to the type of soil it often wallows in. Although similarities exist between the two species, one may distinguish a Black rhino from a White rhino by its lips. White rhinos have broad, square upper lips for grazing on savannah grasses, while Black rhinos have pointed prehensile upper lips for browsing on tree branches and shrubbery.

The Black rhino is smaller than its African counterpart, the White rhino. Its weight still ranges a whopping 1,750-3,000lbs (800-1,350kg) and it stands 4-5ft tall at the shoulder. Males are generally larger than females.

Black Rhino Habitat/Diet

The Black rhino's range once extended throughout central Africa. Grasslands, savannah, and tropical bushlands are preferred. Primarily a browser, Black rhinos use their prehensile upper lip to strip leaves off saplings, shrubs, and small bushes.

Black Rhino Behavior/Reproduction

Black rhinos are primarily solitary animals, except for females with their calves. Males are territorial, and occasionally defend their resources aggressively. This species of rhino is well-known for its aggression. It's poor eyesight coupled with its aggressive behavior results in indiscriminate charging. Even safari jeeps are targeted by an angry Black rhino. Black rhinos spend large amounts of time wallowing in dirt and mud, to keep insects from biting their sensitive skin. Competition for females is characterized by jousting with their enormous horns. The winner breeds with the desired female. Gestation is 16 months long. Calves are precocial at birth, walking shortly after. Females reach sexual maturity at 4-7 years of age, while males become sexually mature at 7-10 years. Black rhinos live 35-40 years of age.

Black Rhino Conservation

Once the most numerous species of rhinoceros, the wild population of Black rhinos numbered approximately 65,000 animals. Catastrophically, between 1970 and 1992, ninety-six percent of the Black rhino population decreased. Only 2,300 Black rhinos remained. Such a sharp decline was due to illegal hunting for the Black rhino's horn. Today, the population has increased to 3,160 rhinos, and is continuing to grow. However, political instability in African nations where the Black rhino lives produce an atmosphere that promotes poaching.

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