White rhino

(Ceratotherium simum)

White rhinos are decreasing primarily due to poaching losses. The population has decreased by almost 12% in the last four years, from an estimated 18,067 to fewer than 16,000 today.

The white rhino, along with the roughly equal-sized greater one-horned rhino, is the largest land mammal after the elephant. It has two distinct subspecies, but only populations of the southern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum) remain viable. The northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) is extinct in the wild due to poaching, and only two females remain at a sanctuary in East Africa.

IUCN Red List Status: Near Threatened & Population Declining



  • The white rhino lives in Africa, in long and short-grass savannahs.
  • Just five countries hold 99% of Africa’s white rhinos – the vast majority of those in South Africa.
  • White rhinos are grazers. Its wide, square upper lip is adapted for feeding on grasses.
  • White rhinos can live to be 35-40 years of age. Gestation lasts approximately 16 months, and mothers give birth to one calf every 2-3 years.
  • White rhinos are semi-social and territorial. Females and subadults generally are social, but bulls are often solitary.

Common Names

White rhinoceros is taken from the Afrikaans word describing its mouth: “wyd”, meaning “wide”. Early English settlers misinterpreted the “wyd” for “white”.

It is also sometimes called the square-lipped rhinoceros.

Scientific Name and Origin

Ceratotherium simum Ceratotherium from the Greek “cerato”, meaning “horn” and “thorium”, meaning “wild beast” and “simum” from the Greek simus, meaning “flat nosed.”

Current White Rhino Numbers and Distribution

There are currently less than 16,000 white rhinos.

Physical Characteristics

Weight: 4,000-6,000 lbs (1,800 – 2,700 kg)
Height: 5 – 6 feet (1.5 – 1.8 m) tall at shoulder
Length: 10-16 feet (3 – 5 m) length of head and body

White rhinos have two horns. The larger front horn measures 37 – 79 inches (94 – 201 cm). The rear horn measures up to 22 inches (55 cm) long.

Other Features

Relatively broad snout with a square lip.

Photo Gallery


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