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Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) Fact Sheet, 2003  

Last Updated: Dec 9, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) Fact Sheet, 2003

Image credit: San Diego Zoo Global. All Rights Reserved.

TaxonomyPhysical Characteristics
Describer (Date): Linnaeus (1758)

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Perissodactyla

Suborder: Ceratomorpha

Family: Rhinocerotidae

Genus: Diceros

Species: Diceros bicornis (Black Rhino)

D. b. longipes - western
D. b. michaeli - eastern
D. b. bicornis - southwestern black rhino
D. b. minor - south central

Body Weight: 1,000 - 1800 kg; (2200 - 3970 lbs)

Head/Body Length: 2.9 - 3.75 m (9.5-12.3 ft)

Shoulder Height: 1.4 - 1.8 m (4.6-5.9 ft)

Tail Length: 60-70 cm (2.0-2.3 ft)

Pelage: Hair only on fringes of ears, and tip of tail. Thick, gray, heavily-folded skin covers the body; color often obscured by dirt.

Horns: Two; located on the rostrum. Composed of keratin (protein composing hair); no bony core. Not shed annually.

Diagnostic Characters: Upper lip pointed and prehensile, capable of grasping objects; unlike the White Rhino whose lip is squared-off and non-prehensile.

Distribution & StatusBehavior & Ecology

Range: Widely scattered populations, Subsaharan Africa. Most commonly present in Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia.

Habitat: Savannahs; not found in closed canopy forest.

IUCN Status: CR, Critically Endangered

CITES Appendix: I or II

Population in Wild: Approximately 3,100

Locomotion: Tend to be fairly sedentary. Share established trails with elephants.

Activity Cycle: Active both day and night. Least active during hottest part of day (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Social Groups: Semi-solitary, but usually tolerate each other's presence with litte aggression.

Diet: Leaves and small twigs.

Predators: Humans; young may be vulnerable to attacks by lions and hyenas.

Reproduction & DevelopmentSpecies Highlights

Sexual Maturity:
Males: 6-10 years
Females: 4-7 years

Gestation: 15 - 17 months

Litter Size: 1 calf

Birth weight: 27 - 45 kg (59.5 - 99.2 lb)

Independent of mother: 2.5 to 3 years

Longevity: c. 40 years.

Feature Facts: Heavily hunted for horns (for purported medicinal use); population decreased by 94% between 1970 and 1990. Earliest record of captivity- 3rd century BC by the Romans. Slow increase in population size since 1995 due to aggressive protection.

Society Press:

  • 1952: SD Zoo received first black rhino
  • 1976: First black rhino born in the zoo's Wild Animal Park (now Safari Park)
  • 1992: First black rhino born in SD Zoo
  • As of 2010 12 East African Black Rhinos have been born at the Safari Park
  • The SDZG is considered the world's leading breeding authority on rhinos

About This Fact Sheet

© 2003 San Diego Zoo Global. Minor updates in 2013, 2015.

How to cite: Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) Fact Sheet, 2003. c2003. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Global; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd].
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Jan 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Global makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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