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White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding

Diet & Feeding


  • Feed almost exclusively short grasses
    • Diet of southern subspecies (from Owen-Smith 1973)
      • 95% comprised of 12 species of plants
      • 74% came from 4 species
        • Themeda triandra
        • Panicum maximum
        • P. coloratum
        • Urochloa mossambicensis
      • Actively avoid some grasses
        • Cymbopogon plurinodis, a coarse, odoriferous grass, consistently avoided in one study


  • Pull with the lip to clip grasses
    • No incisors
    • Upper lip to grasp grass against lower lip
  • Crops grass close to ground
    • As short as 1 cm
  • Do not chew cud as seen in other ruminants


  • Drink every 1-4 days during the dry season

Southern White Rhino Feeding

A mother and calf white rhino eating

White rhinoceros feed almost exclusively on short grasses. A lack of upper incisors means that grass is pulled with the lips, grasped between the upper and lower lips.

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

Page Citations

Kingdon (1997)
Owen-Smith (1973)

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