What Are The Differences Between Black Rhinos And White Rhinos?

By Victor Kiprop on October 21 2019 in Environment

A close-up of a white rhinoceros.

Rhinos are the second largest terrestrial animals by weight and bulk, surpassed only by the elephant. They have short but sturdy legs, a short neck, and a large head armed with horns. There are five species of rhinos, of which three are found in Asia while the black and white rhinoceros are exclusively found in Africa. The earliest members of the rhino family migrated to Africa from Asia around 20 million years ago. Despite their size, weight, armor, and endurance, rhinos are among the animals that are staring at extinction. The black rhino is not black, nor is the white rhino white, both animals have shades of grey and share similar physical traits, except for a few distinctions.


The white rhino is the larger of the two. Adult females can weigh as much as a 3,700 lb while males can be 4,800 lb. An average female black rhino is 1,700 lb while males weigh 3,000 lb. When the animals are paraded, they are easy to distinguish since the white rhino is visibly bigger and taller.

Close-up of a black rhino.

Mouth And Food Preferences

The most distinctive feature between the two animals is the shape of the mouth. The black rhino is a browser that feeds on leaves, branches, and shoots, and as a result, it has pointed lips for grabbing and holding spiky trees. The white rhino is a grazer with broad, flat, and wide lips that are designed for gripping and tearing grass. It is quite a noisy feeder.

Body Shape

The white rhino is more prominent, taller, longer, and bulkier, while the black rhino is short and compact. The white rhino has a flat back with a small protruding hump, while the black rhino has an arch on its back. It is difficult to see the distinctions while facing the animals, but they are visible from the side. Their body traits are also affected by their feeding behavior; the white rhino feeds mostly on grass and therefore has small eyes, long face, and a weak neck since its head is always on the ground, while the black rhino lifts its head to feed on leaves and branches and therefore has a more compact neck.


The white rhino has extremely poor eyesight, and its nose is always on the ground, therefore, it relies on its ear for awareness and safety. As a consequence, the ears are long, tubular, and can swivel independently to funnel sound efficiently. The black rhino has its eyes, nose, and ears in the air at all times. As a result, the ears are small and round.


Feeding preference influences the habitats of the rhinos. The white rhino prefers grasslands and open areas while the black rhino prefers thickets and dense brush where leaves and branches are prevalent. Nevertheless, the two species are not rivals and can be seen feeding close together.


The black rhino has a reputation for being more inquisitive and aggressive than the white rhino, which is more placid. Their behaviors are thought to be shaped by their habitat and feeding environments. White rhinos feed in open areas and can see intruders from afar and determine whether they are hostile or not. Black rhinos feed on thick brush; encounters with intruders are sudden and heart-stopping. They respond aggressively to avoid being prey. Most people who encounter rhinos often bump into more black than white rhinos.


White and black rhinos can be distinguished by simply looking at their excrement. Rhinos have a specific place where they defecate, mostly to mark their territories. The dung of the white rhino is composed of grass; it is poorly digested and resembles the grass from a lawnmower. The excrement of the black rhino has leaves and twigs that are inclined because of the way the animal grinds its teeth. The dung of the white rhino is black while that of the white rhino is brown.

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