You may be surprised to learn that the differences between black and white rhinos has nothing to do with the colour of their skin! The confusion began when the Dutch settlers named the ‘Weid mond rhino’ – meaning ‘wide mouth rhino’. The English misinterpreted, thinking that they were saying ‘white’. Hence the current name. There are still, however, differences between these two rhino species.
The black, or hook-lipped rhino, is smaller than the white rhino and a bull can weigh in at around 1000kg. You certainly would not want this formidable animal to stand on your foot! They also have a smaller, hook-shaped mouth ideal for feeding on plants and bark, including shrubbery.
The face upwards position of the head is natural for the rhino, making it easy to feed off the bark of trees and taller shrubbery. Black rhinos tend to prefer living in areas where there is dense vegetation and plenty of undergrowth, perhaps necessitating the habit of the female to charge ahead of her calf, clearing a pathway. The black rhino is well known for its extremely aggressive behaviour and short temper and is a solitary animal that prefers its own company.
The white rhino, or broad-mouthed rhino, is quite a bit larger than the black rhino and bulls can weigh in at over twice their weight, usually 2,500kgs. The white rhino has a different shape to the mouth in comparison to its black counterpart. Its mouth is broad and flattened, enabling it to easily crop grass, which it consumes in copious amounts. They are also distinctive from the black rhino in that they bear a prominent hump, which is accentuated by a prominent skin fold along the lower part of the shoulder.
The white rhinos natural head posture is downward facing, making it easier for it to crop the grass whilst grazing. They display more of a herd mentality and can often be found grazing in groups of ten to fifteen individual animals. Their natural habitat is open grassland and quite opposite to the black rhino who runs ahead of her calf, the white rhino calf runs ahead of its mother who directs her infant by tapping it gently upon the rear with her formidable horn.