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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

White Rhinoceros Facts You’ll Never Forget

Discover white rhinoceros facts about this Near Endangered species.

Also known as the square-lipped rhinoceros, the white rhinoceros is one of two African species of rhinoceros. In fact, it is the largest of the two. The white rhinoceros' scientific name is Ceratotherium simum. Historically, this species had two subspecies: the southern white rhinoceros and the northern white rhinoceros. However, DNA analysis and comparative anatomy have now suggested that both groups are completely different species.

The white rhinoceros doesn’t have a contiguous range. Once, its small population was found near the south of the Zambezi river over a large area of the bushveld. However, the white rhino population in South Africa has reduced to less than 100 individuals today, due to the poaching of wildlife and they are now classified as a Near Threatened species. Today, there are over 20,000 rhinoceros that have been redistributed to reserves and national parks in South Africa, which makes this one of the most successful stories of African rhino conservation.

White rhinoceroses, both males and females, are among the largest grazers alive which makes them an integral part of African grassland wildlife. Hindering woody plant encroachment and preventing seed dispersal is their role in southern grasslands and some people also believe that the horns of this rhino species contain medicinal properties too. Even though these medicinal properties remain officially unproven, this is the main reason why this species has been a victim of poaching that has almost made white rhinoceros extinct. Thanks to increased awareness and education about how these rhinos have been suffering due to illegal poaching of their horns, lots of conservation measures have been taken by different countries in order to protect their small population. These include a shoot-on-sight policy for poaching horns, increased patrols by rangers, relocation to safer areas such as a national park, and a dehorning program that helps increase the white rhinoceros' population in the long term. Many countries have also increased the fine amount and the length of jail time for people involved in the illegal poaching and trading of the rhino horn.

For more animal facts, check out our guides to the Masai giraffe and the takin too.

White Rhinoceros Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a white rhinoceros?

A white rhinoceros is a type of rhinoceros whose name comes from the language Afrikaans. The word ‘weit’ means 'wide' and refers to the mouth of the animal. They are also called a square-lipped rhinoceros or their scientific name: Ceratotherium simum cottoni.

What class of animal does a white rhinoceros belong to?

White rhinos, the second-largest land mammal, are mainly found in Africa and belong to the Mammalia class.

How many white rhinoceros are there in the world?

There is a population of more than 20,000 white rhino males and females in private game reserves and protected wildlife areas today.

Where does a white rhinoceros live?

White rhinos are mainly found in Africa’s grassy plains. Most of them live in four countries: Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

What is a white rhinoceros's habitat?

The white rhino habitat is the grasslands and open savanna woodlands of Africa.

Who do white rhinoceros live with?

You can find white rhinos grazing with other animals like lions, cheetahs, zebras, and elephants in the grassy plains of the African savanna in countries like Kenya and South Africa

How long does a white rhinoceros live?

The average white rhinoceros' lifespan is about 40-5o years.

How do they reproduce?

A female white rhino reaches sexual maturity when they are six or seven years old while adult males reach sexual maturity at about 10 to 12 years old. Courtship between adult males and females is considered to be a difficult affair and, after mating, the breeding pair will stay together for five to 20 days and then they go their separate ways. For a white rhino, her gestation period is 16 months long and after this, a single calf is born weighing somewhere between 88-132 lb (40-65 kg).

What is their conservation status?

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the conservation status of a white rhino is Near Threatened.

White Rhinoceros Fun Facts

What does a white rhinoceros look like?

A white rhinoceros is gray in color, however, it is much paler than a black rhinoceros. They have squared lips and two horns. The foremost horn is more prominent than the other one. They have cylindrical bodies, short legs, short tails, and big heads.

White rhinos are mainly found in Africa.

How cute are they?

For animal enthusiasts, a rhinoceros, especially a baby rhino, is seen as super cute!

How do they communicate?

There are several ways in which a white rhino species can communicate. Firstly, they use a wide range of vocalizations for communicating such as squeaks, trumpets, growls, snorts, and moos. The first sound made by a baby rhino is a high-pitched squeak or mewling squeal!

A white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) can also use a complex breathing system for signaling to other rhinos. For example, if a mother rhino is separated from her calf, she will use breathing pants to call for her infant. The way they use breathing for communication is a little like using Morse code. The speed of breathing is different for different emotions and, depending on the pattern and speed, breathing patterns can indicate anything from reassurance to anxiety.

In 1990, researcher Elizabeth von Muggenthaler found that the wild rhinoceros can also produce a wide range of infrasonic sounds, below the human hearing range, when she picked up an infrasonic sound inadvertently while trying to record an elephant. Some of these are quite powerful and resonant sounds. Olfactory communication using scent is another of the wide range of communication techniques used by the wild white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) for identifying one another and indicating their presence at watering holes and feeding stations.

Lastly, northern white rhinos also use their posture, nostrils, and ears to communicate through body language. Curiosity might be indicated with an erect tail or erect ears. They might flare their nostrils or flatten their ears to show anger and a male rhino will bash its head into bushes as a way of showing aggression. However, because of poor eyesight, body language is the least used way of communication among these rhinos.

How big is a white rhinoceros?

A wild white rhinoceros is a large herbivore mammal. The average male white rhinoceros size is somewhere between 12.1-13.1 ft (3.7-4 m) while a female's size can be about 11.2-11.8 ft (3.4-3.6 m) long.

How fast can a white rhinoceros run?

A white rhino is an agile and quick animal that can run up to the speed of 31 mph (50 kmph).

How much does a white rhinoceros weigh?

Out of all the five species of rhinoceros that are alive today. the northern white rhino is the largest. Even though there is a considerable mass overlap between a rhinoceros and a hippopotamus, a white rhino's weight is slightly more than a hippo's. A white rhino has a large body along with a large head, broad chest, and a short neck. On average, a male northern and southern white rhino, weighs about 5,070 lb (2,300 kg) while a female weighs 3,747 lb (1,700 kg). We don’t know exactly the largest size that a rhinoceros can obtain. However, some species of rhinoceros can weigh about 7,937 lb (3,600 kg). There also have been some unverified claims of a rhino being 9,921 lb (4,500 kg) in weight!

What are their male and female names of the species?

The name of a white male rhinoceros is a ‘bull’ while the white female rhinoceros is ‘cow’.

What would you call a baby white rhinoceros?

A baby white rhinoceros is called a calf.

What do they eat?

They are herbivores which means that the northern and southern white rhinoceros diet includes only plants. They mostly eat grass, instead of other plant products like leaves, and they prefer fresher growth and shorter grass. Since white rhinos are among the largest grass-eating animals, they need a lot of grass in order to survive. One northern or southern white rhino, can eat about 120 lb (54 kg) of grass in a single day!

Are they dangerous?

Northern and southern white rhinos are among the more placid and sociable animals of the rhinoceros species. A white rhino can be friendly and cooperative, but male white rhinos are more aggressive than female ones.

Would they make a good pet?

Northern white rhinos and southern white rhinos cannot be trained or tamed. Therefore, they cannot be kept as a pet. However, some captive white rhinos are held in game parks and zoos. The majority of white rhinoceroses are found in only four countries: Kenya, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa.

Did you know…

Poachers are the worst white rhinoceros predators for both northern white rhinos and southern white rhinos. According to traditional Asian medicinal beliefs, powdered rhino horn is a supposed cure for a range of illnesses including fevers, hangovers, and even cancer. There has been an increase in demand for these horns in Vietnam and, apart from its use in medicine, the front horn of a northern white rhino or a southern white rhino is also consumed and bought as a symbol of wealth.

Poaching gangs use incredibly sophisticated methods like night vision equipment and helicopters for tracking rhinos to get hold of a rhino horn. They use veterinary drugs to knock them out in order to remove the rhino horn. Conservationists and governments have to match this level of technological sophistication when tackling the problem and reducing the demand for rhino horns.

White rhinoceros vs. black rhinoceros

One of the best white rhinoceros facts for kids is that white and black rhinoceros are both found exclusively in Africa. However, neither are black or white in color. In fact, both of them are gray. The most common and easiest way of distinguishing between the two is the shape of their lips. This difference originates from their food preferences. Since white rhinos are grazers, they have flat and broad lips. These lips with strong muscles act as lawnmowers since they can grip and tear the grass effectively. The black rhino, on the other hand, eats branches and leaves so their lips are pointed and are in the shape of a hook so that they can hold onto trees.

Also, white rhinos are often larger than black ones. They have a long, barrel-shaped, and imponent body whereas black rhinos have a sturdier, shorter, and more compact body. There are also a few differences between a white rhinoceros head and a black rhinoceros head.

While both of them share generally the same habitat, white rhinos are mostly found in fields and grasslands while the latter are spotted in dense brush areas. This is also due to their different food preferences. In terms of behavior, black rhinos are known to be more territorial and aggressive than white rhinos. The latter is more placid and calm, mainly because of its poor eyesight. However, both of them have a lifespan of over 40 years.

Are white rhinoceros endangered?

After about a century of successful management and protection, there are now more than 20,000 rhinos in private game reserves and protected areas across the world. The species is classified as Near Threatened, so they are not endangered yet. The majority of white rhinos are found in only four countries: Kenya, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa. One of the most interesting northern white rhinoceros facts is that northern rhinos are sadly officially extinct in the wild.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including the giant anteater, or the plains zebra.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our white rhinoceros coloring pages.

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