White Rhinoceros White Rhinoceros
White Rhinoceros

Scientific Classification

Common Name
white rhinoceros, square-lipped rhino
Genus Species
Ceratotherium (horn shaped) simum (snub-nosed)

Fast Facts

Large stocky animal, naturally grey in color, two facial horns and wide, squared lips
1.7 to 1.9 m (5.5 to 6.25 ft.) tall at shoulder; 3.25 to 4.25 m long (10.75 to 14 ft.)
600 to 2260 kg (3500 to 5000 lbs.); females are smaller
Herbivore that eats short grasses
16 months
Sexual Maturity
Male: 10 to 12 years
Female: 4 to 6 years
Life Span
25 to 45 years
Eastern and southern Africa; northern savannas of central Africa (rare subspecies)
Open savannas and grasslands
Global: Unknown
IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Endangered

Fun Facts

  1. A rhino's horn is not a true horn that is attached to the skull. It grows from the skin and is made up of keratin fibers, the same material found in hair and nails.
  2. The white rhino has a wide squared off lip that allows it to eat a wide swath of the green, short grasses that grow in the open savannahs.
  3. Unlike other rhino species, the white rhino is semi-gregarious; the females and sub-adults are rarely alone. The dominant male patrols the territory that the females and young pass through. Females in managed situations will reproduce better if they are in a group.
  4. During the European exploration of Africa, the white rhino was actually less numerous than the black rhino. In recent history the black rhino populations have been heavily poached to alarmingly low levels. Today, because of careful management in the Republic of South Africa, the white rhino population has increased dramatically. South Africa has approximately 80% of the world's population of white rhinos.

Ecology and Conservation

The white rhino is one of the largest pure grazers alive, making them an integral aspect of the southern African grasslands. Seed dispersal and the hindering of woody plant encroachment are important parts of their role in the grasslands.

People of some cultures believe that rhino horn contains medicinal or curative properties. The medical aspects are not proven but are still the primary reason for the poaching of the species. Because of education and awareness to the plight of the rhino many things are being done with varying degrees of success. Some of the conservation measures that have been attempted by some range countries are increased patrols by rangers, a shoot on sight policy for poaching, a dehorning program for rhinos, and the relocation of rhinos to safer areas.

Economic sanctions, or the threat of such, against countries that continue to consume rhino horn have had the greatest impact in their regulatory policies. Many of these countries have increased jail time and amounts of fines for those involved in the illegal trade in rhino horn.


Estes, Richard D. The Safari Companion. Post Mills, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 1993.

MacDonald, David. The Encyclopedia of Mammals:2. London: George Allen & Unwin Co., 1985.

Martin, Esmond and Chryssee Bradley. Run Rhino Run. London: Chatto and Windus, 1982.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World. Fifth edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.