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White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) Fact Sheet: Summary

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) Fact Sheet

Northern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni)

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


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Describer (Date): Burchell (1817)

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Perissodactyla

Family: Rhinocerotidae

Genus: Ceratotherium

Species: C. simum

Subspecies: C. s. simum (southern)
Subspecies: C. s. cottoni (northern)

Body Weight:
Males: 2,300 kg (5,100 lbs)
Females: 1,800 kg (4,000 lbs)

Body Length (head body):  360-420 cm (12-14 ft)

Tail Length: 80-100 cm (3 ft)

Pelage: Hair only at tip of tail and fringes of ears

Horns: Two horns on rostrum, one in front of the other

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Range: Disjunct populations in east-central Africa and southern Africa

  • C. s. cottoni: last remaining sighted in Democratic Republic of Congo, 2008
  • C. s. simum: predominantly in South Africa; few dispersed across 6 other south African countries

Habitat: Grasslands and savannahs; do not like closed forest or thick brush.

IUCN Status: Near Threatened (2011 assessment)

CITES Appendix: C. s. simum from South Africa Appendix II; all other populations of both subspecies Appendix I

Population in Wild:  

  • C. s. cottoni (northern) - 2 individuals remaining
  • C. s. simum (southern) - approximately 20,000 individuals

Locomotion: Fairly sedentary; do not disperse very rapidly

Activity Cycle: Most active (feeding) early morning and late afternoon; rest during midday. At night, alternate between resting and feeding

Social Groups: Not very social. Territorial bulls almost always alone. Females with calves or unrelated adolescents. Groups of adolescents

Diet: Consume short grasses

Predators: Humans; young may be vulnerable to lions.

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity:
Females: 6.5 - 7 years
Males: 10-12 years

Gestation: 16 months

Litter Size: 1

Age at Weaning: at about 1 year of age

Typical Life Expectancy:
Managed care: median life expectancy of about 36 to 37 years

Feature Facts

  • Second largest land mammal; largest rhino
  • Distinctive broad, flat upper lip
  • Can gallop up to 40 kph (25 mph)
  • Typically rest lying down, rather than standing
  • Good sense of smell
  • Males highly territorial; use urine to mark territory boundaries
  • Adult males often solitary
  • Known for mutualistic relationships with oxpecker, drongo, and egret birds
  • Easy target of poachers due to poor eyesight
  • 94 southern white rhinos born at the Wild Animal Park between 1971 and 2015. Remarkable conservation success story.
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park was the last zoo in the world to have northern white rhinos in its collections. Nola, a 41-year-old female, died in 2015. The 2 remaining white rhinos live at Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Efforts underway to breed using southern white rhino surrogate mothers.

About This Fact Sheet

© 2015-2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Minor updates in 2013,  2015. Population updates Mar 2018, Apr 2019.

How to cite: White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) Fact Sheet. c2015-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. whiterhino.
(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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