Black & White Rhino: What's the difference?

by Cameron Neill
1st April 2019

Safari

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I hate to break it to you that your life is a lie, but white rhinoceros aren’t white and black rhinoceros aren’t black.  Sorry. If you need a moment to recover, go right ahead. Ok, as I mentioned, their colour isn’t the way to tell these animals apart.  If you mix white and black together you get grey, which is the actual colour both species are.  
 
The name white rhinoceros comes from the Dutch word “wijd” meaning “wide”. This refers to their wide mouth but English speakers misheard it as “White” and the name stuck.  Black rhinoceros get their name from being the other rhinoceros that isn’t the white one. Yep, it's true. Despite being the same colour they are different species and do have some obvious physical and behavioural differences that can assist in identifying each species.
 
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White Rhino
 
Is the head up or down?
 
White rhinos are grazers and eat grass.  Because of this you will usually find white rhinos with their head down along the ground. Their head is quite long and wide.  Black rhino eat from bushes and shrubs meaning that you will usually find them with their head up.  Their head is shorter and smaller, almost looking a little small for their body.
 
 
White-Rhino-South-Africa

What does their mouth look like?
 
White rhino have a wide mouth that is used to take in large amounts of food at once. Black rhinos have a hooked shape mouth with obvious front lip that looks a bit like a beak. Does it have friends? White rhinos are generally calmer and more sociable than black rhinos, often found in groups of 7 or more.  Black rhinos can be in small groups but usually not for long, often found travelling solo or with youngsters.
 
Black-Rhino-South-Africa
 
Where are the kids?
 
Black rhino young travel behind their mother as she makes her way through the bushes. White rhino young travel in front of their mother where she can keep an eye on them in the open grasslands.  It’s an old joke that it is the same with black and white people and their young. Local African women tend to carry their children wrapped on their back whereas white women carry them on their chest in a harness or in a pram.
 
 
White-Rhino-AfricaBlack Rhino
 
Size difference
 
It is a little hard to tell without seeing them both first but white rhinoceros are bigger, a bit taller and quite a bit heavier.
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