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Differences between White and Black Rhinos

White Rhino 

Ceratotherium simum

  • Broad, square lips, used to pluck grass with
  • Skull longer
  • Hump on back
  • Ears pointed
  • Calf usually runs in front of the mother

  • 2 Subspecies:
  1. Southern White Rhino, Ceratotherium simum simum (Southern Africa and Kenya)
  2. C. s. cottoni (from the Democratic Republic of the Congo) -somewhat longer in the legs, shorter in the body and the skull is less concave.

  • Former Distribution in the southern African subregion:
Ocurred widely in the southern parts of Africa but didn't occur very far south of the Orange River.  It was generally absent from the Orange Free State and parts of the southern former Transvaal.  It was also absent in the extreme south of Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Black Rhino 

Diceros bicornis

  • Upper lip is prehensile and pointed to aid browsing
  • Shorter head and longer neck
  • The back appears hollow or saddle-shaped from a side view
  • Ears rounded and more trumpet-like
  • Calf usually runs behind the mother

  • 4 Subspecies:
  1. Diceros bicornis minor (a relatively large bushveld group which extends from KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa through southern and Central Africa into southern Tanzania
  2. D. b. bicornis (a desert group in Namibia and in the Namib-Karoo)
  3. D. b. michaeli (an eastern group in Kenya and northern Tanzania)
  4. D. b. longipes (a north-western group in Cameroon)

  • Former Distribution in the    southern African subregion:
Formerly more widely distributed than the white rhino.  Occurred throughout most of southern Africa except in parts of the Orange Free State and the southern parts of the former Transvaal.  Interestingly, Jan van Riebeeck recorded in his journal that (black) rhinos occurred on the slopes of Table Mountain and were common on the Cape flats, in 1652.  At that time Europeans were unaware of the fact that two species of rhino occurred in Africa.  Towards the end of the 18th century hunters and pioneers entered the area north of the Orange River and first saw white rhinos.