White Rhino Speed and Agility

I was on a mission to find a young white rhino cow who had not been seen for a few days. I had scoured her territory and was beginning to get nervous because I had never known her to be outside of her area.  As I got to the top of the hill, my visibility was limited.  It was a steep, rocky incline with a few bushes and one or two boulders nearby. I moved slowly and deliberately. Just as I crested the hill, I met the eyes of the young cow, less than 10 feet away. I was relieved to see her alive but surprised she was right in front of me. Not as surprised as she was caught outside of her normal territory, she felt vulnerable and threatened. She ran at me, less to want to hurt me than to get past me on the path to the place she felt safe, covering the ground between us in what felt like a second. Not wanting to wait around to confirm her intention, I jumped to the opposite side of a knee-high boulder as she ran past. She kept an eye on me as she passed, her horn mere inches from my backside, but continued on to her safe zone.

White rhinos belong to the order Perissodactyla, or odd-toed ungulates, as do horses, zebras and tapirs. They have three toes, each with a large toenail, and soft soles on each foot. While rhinos and horses might not look related, they are physiologically alike and can have similar parasites, diseases, and responses to drugs.

Even though they look like the might be slow and even clumsy, white rhino can run at speeds up to 25mph. These speeds cannot be maintained for extended periods of time and if they are, white rhino can experience capture myopathy, where carbon dioxide and heat build up in the muscles of the legs, potentially causing permanent damage. They are extremely agile and can turn within their own body length at top speeds.

Being grazers, white rhino prefer grasslands or open savannahs. They like to have mud wallows and a water source close by, but can go 2-4 days without drinking. If the wallows are dry, white rhinos have been known to roll in dust.





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