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Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) Fact Sheet: Summary

Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) Fact Sheet

Black Rhino and calf

Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Perissodactyla

Family: Rhinocerotidae

Genus: Diceros

Species: Diceros bicornis (black rhinocerous)

D. b. michaeli - eastern
D. b. bicornis - southwestern
D. b. minor - south central
D. b. longipes - western (declared extinct in 2011)

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 & Status Behavior & Ecology

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

Habitat: Savannahs; not found in closed canopy forest.

IUCN Status 
Critically Endangered; see IUCN Status for separate subspecies assessments

Appendix I

Population in Wild: approximately 3,100 mature individuals; see Population Status for subspecies estimates

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 little aggression.

Diet: Leaves and small twigs.

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

Reproduction & Development Species 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

Typical Life Expectancy: 
Managed care: median life expectancy of about 19 years for eastern black rhino, Diceros bicornis michaeli

Feature Facts

  • Heavily hunted for horns (for purported medicinal use); population decreased by 94% between 1970 and 1990.
  • ​Earliest record of managed care - 3rd century BC by the Romans. Slow increase in population size since 1995 due to aggressive protection.
  • Many remaining rhinos are concentrated in sanctuaries and conservancies
  • Recent increasing efforts towards biologic management for successful breeding to increase populations
  • 1976: First black rhino born in the zoo's Wild Animal Park (now Safari Park)
  • The SDZG is considered the world's leading breeding authority on rhinos. 

About This Fact Sheet

© 2003-2020 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Minor updates in 2013, 2015. Population estimates updated Sep 2018. IUCN Status and populations estimates updated Oct 2020.

How to cite: Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) Fact Sheet. c2003-2020. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. blackrhino.
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Jan 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance 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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