Black rhinoceros

Diceros bicornis

Black rhinos live in savannas and forests of southern Africa from Somalia to South Africa. They are herbivores. Black rhinoceros skin is dull, dark gray, but rhinos often take on the color of soil due to their fondness for mud and dust baths. Baths cool them and the mud and dust form a barrier to biting insects.

Did you know?

  • There are five rhino species, two in Africa and three in Asia. White rhinos are more abundant than black rhinos.
  • Horn count:
    African black rhino: 2 horns
    African white rhino: 2 horns
    Sumatran rhino: 2 horns
    Indian rhino: 1 horn
    Javan rhino: 1 horn
  • A group of rhinos is called a "crash".

Black rhino behavior and facts

  • Black rhinos have a prehensile lip (one that can grab), an adaptation for browsing. It uses the lip to grab bunches of leaves, its main food. White rhinos have broad lips, more suited to grazing grasses.
  • The black rhino has two horns (diceros means "two horns"), with the longer one in front. Horns are a dense collection of keratin fibers (the same substance that comprises hair, fingernails, and hooves).
  • Rhinos primarily use their horns to defend against predators. Males also use them in confrontations with other rhinos over territory.
  • Their legs are short but capable of running up to 30 mph; each foot has 3 toes.
  • While their eyesight is poor, their senses of hearing and smell are keen. The sense of smell is a rhino's primary means of detecting predators, primarily humans.
  • Black rhinos are solitary and active in the morning and evening. At midday, they sleep or rest.
  • Rhinos visit waterholes daily.
  • They have a reputation of unprovoked aggression and of charging intruders.

From birth to death

  • Courtship: male trumpets when a female is in heat
  • Birth interval: 2 to 4 years
  • Gestation: 15 months
  • Young: 1, about 88 pounds at birth
  • Young stay with the mother for 2 years. The bond between the mother and her most recent young is very strong.
  • Black rhino calves follow their mothers during retreats from danger while white rhino calves lead their mothers.
  • Sexual maturity: male 7 to 8 years, with dominant status at 10 years; females 5 to 7 years.

Vital statistics

  • Weight: up to 3,000 pounds
  • Length: 10 feet


  • US Endangered • CITES App I • SSP participant
  • Black rhino populations:
  • In 1970 there were approximately 65,000 in the wild; currently about 3500
  • Decline is due mainly to a recent resurgence in poaching.
  • The western black rhino subspecies was declared extinct in 2011.
  • In India, China and the Far East, rhino horns are used in folk medicine as a cure for many medical ailments including headaches, fever, gout and rheumatism. Despite the common misconception, it is not used as an aphrodisiac.
  • Rhino horns can bring up to $24,000 each in the Far East. Pound for pound, it is worth more than gold on the black market.
  • In North Yemen, the horn is used as a dagger handle. The daggers, called "jambiya", are highly coveted and are considered a sign of manhood.

Rhinos, the Oregon Zoo and you

  • The zoo's black rhinos live in the Africa Savanna exhibit. They eat alfalfa, apples, carrots, grain-based hoof-stock pellets, lettuce, vitamin supplements, leaves and twigs.
  • The black rhino is considered one of the world's most endangered mammals due to being poached throughout its range for its horns.

Black rhinos at the Oregon Zoo


Zuri is a female black rhino born on June 7, 2007. She arrived at the Oregon Zoo in April 2011. Zuri lives in the Africa savanna exhibit...