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White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) Fact Sheet: Reproduction & Development


Characteristic courtship behaviors

  • Behavior of territorial male
    • Typically not aggressive towards females during oestrus
      • Unlike the black rhino, little horn jousting occurs between male and female
    • Spend one to two weeks nearby to habituate a female to his presence
    • Attempts to block female from leaving his territory
      • Does not follow her if she gets past him; therefore, there is little fighting between males for access to females

Mating frequency

  • Adult females
    • Only 40% of females mated in any given year in Zululand, South Africa
  • Territorial males
    • Mate only once or twice a year in Zululand, South Africa
  • Subordinate males
    • Rarely mate



  • First estrus
    • c. 5 years of age
  • Estrus cycle
    • ~ 30 days, in the wild (Swaisgood 2001)
    • See Managed Care tab for further information


  • Duration
    • 16 months


  • First parturition
    • 6.5-7 years of age
  • Interbirth interval (time between consecutive births)
    • 2-3 years
  • Litter size
    • 1

Life Stages


  • Development
    • Up and about in three days


  • Development and care
    • Still dependent on the mother
    • Eat grass within a month of birth
    • Weaning
      • Begun within c. four weeks of birth, typically
      • Calf continues to nurse occasionally for about a year or more


  • Development
    • Independent of mother, but not sexually mature
    • Separation usually occurs after the birth of a new calf in two to three years


  • Age at sexual maturity
    • Females
      • c. 7 years
    • Males
      • 10-12 years

Typical Life Expectancy

Managed care

  • Median life expectancy
    • 36.5 years (male, female data combined) (AZA 2024)



  • Minor contributor to adult mortality
  • Calf mortality
    • Lions may be a minor threat to calves
    • Hyena not known to attack, one study in Umfolozi or Hluhluwe Game Reserves (Owen-Smith 1973)
      • Hyena known to attack black rhino calve

Southern White Rhino Calf and Mother

A white Rhino calf and mother

A calf will remain with his mother for several years. Young typically become independed after 2-3 years, coinciding with the birth of the next sibling.

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

Page Citations

Owen-Smith (1973)
Pienaar (1995)
Swaisgood (2001)

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