Animal Database

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Animal Database
Animal Database
Black Rhinoceros
Black Rhinoceros
Common Name Hook-lipped Rhinoceros
Range eastern and central Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Angola.
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Perrisodactyla
Family Rhinocerotidae
Genus Diceros
Species Diceros bicornis
Conservation Status
Critically Endangered

The black rhinoceros was once widespread south of the Sahara. The word comes from Latin rhinoceros which is from Ancient Greek rhinokeros. Now, fewer than 2,000 remain. It has been hunted almost to extinction for its horns, which are prized in China and the Middle East. For one horn, a poacher can earn twice what he would earn in a year as a farmer. The black rhino is now found only in heavily guarded nature reserves, but illegal hunting still continues. The Black rhinoceros or hook-lipped rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), is a species of rhinoceros, native to eastern and central Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Angola. Although the rhinoceros is referred to as black, its colors vary from brown to grey.

The other African rhinoceros is the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). The word "white" in the name "white rhinoceros" is a misinterpretation of the Afrikaans word wyd, itself derived from the Dutch word wijd for wide, referring to its square upper lip, as opposed to the pointed or hooked lip of the black rhinoceros. These species are now sometimes referred to as the square-lipped (for white) or hook-lipped (for black) rhinoceros.

The species overall is classified as critically endangered, and one subspecies, the western black rhinoceros, was declared extinct by the IUCN in 2011.


The species was first named Rhinoceros bicornis by Carolus Linnaeus in the 10th edition of his Systema naturae in 1758. The name means "double-horned rhinoceros". There is some confusion about what exactly Linnaeus conceived under this name as this species was probably based upon the skull of a single-horned Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), with a second horn artificially added by the collector. Such a skull is known to have existed and Linnaeus even mentioned India as origin of this species. However he also referred to reports from early travellers about a double-horned rhino in Africa and when it emerged that there is only one, single-horned species of rhino in India, "Rhinoceros" bicornis was used to refer to the African rhinos (the white rhino only became recognised in 1812).


The intraspecific variation in the black rhinoceros has been discussed by various authors and is not finally settled. The most accepted scheme considers seven or eight subspecies, of which three became extinct in historical times and one is on the brink of extinction:

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Southern Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis bicornis)

(Linnaeus, 1758)

Once abundant from the Cape of Good Hope to Transvaal, South Africa and probably into the south of Namibia, this was the largest subspecies. It became extinct due to excessive hunting and habitat destruction around 1850.
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North-eastern Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis brucii)

(Lesson, 1842)

Formerly central Sudan, Eritrea, northern and southeastern Ethiopia, Djibouti and northern and southeastern Somalia. Relict populations in northern Somalia vanished during the early 20th century.
Chobe Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis chobiensis)

(Lesson, 1842)

A local subspecies restricted to the Chobe Valley in southeastern Angola, Namibia (Zambezi Region) and northern Botswana. Nearly extinct, possibly only one surviving specimen in Botswana.
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Uganda Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis ladoensis)

(Zukowsky, 1965)

Former distribution from South Sudan, across Uganda into western Kenya and southwesternmost Ethiopia. Black rhinos are considered extinct across most of this area and its conversational status is unclear. Probably surviving in Kenyan reserves.
Western Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes)

(Zukowsky, 1949)

Once lived in South Sudan, northern Central African Republic, southern Chad, northern Cameroon, northeastern Nigeria and south-eastern Niger. The range possibly stretched west to the Niger River in western Niger, though this is unconfirmed. The evidence from Liberia and Burkina Faso mainly rests upon the existence of indigenous names for the rhinoceros. A far greater former range in West Africa as proposed earlier is doubted by a 2004 study. The last known wild specimens lived in northern Cameroon. In 2006 an intensive survey across its putative range in Cameroon failed to locate any, leading to fears that it was extinct in the wild. On November 10, 2011 the IUCN declared the western black rhinoceros extinct.
Eastern Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli)

(Zukowsky, 1965)

Had a historical distribution from South Sudan, Ethiopia, down through Kenya into north-central Tanzania. Today, its range is limited primarily to Tanzania.
South-Central Black Rhinoceros
South-central Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis minor)

(Drummond, 1876)

Most widely distributed subspecies, characterized by a compact body, proportionally large head and prominent skin-folds. Ranged from north-eastern South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal) to northeastern Tanzania and southeastern Kenya. Preserved in reserves throughout most of its former range but probably extinct in eastern Angola, southern Democratic Republic of Congo and possibly Moçambique. Extinct but reintroduced in Malawi, Botswana, and Zambia.
South-western Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis occidentalis)

(Zukowsky, 1922)

A small subspecies, adapted to survival in desert and semi-desert conditions. Originally distributed in north-western Namibia and southwestern Angola, today restricted to wildlife reserves in Namibia with sporadic sightings in Angola. These populations are often erroneously referred to Diceros bicornis bicornis or Diceros bicornis minor but represent a subspecies in their own right.

The most widely adopted alternative scheme only recognizes five subspecies or "eco-types", Diceros bicornis bicornis, Diceros bicornis brucii, Diceros bicornis longipes, Diceros bicornis michaeli, and Diceros bicornis minor. This concept is also used by the IUCN, listing three surviving subspecies and recognizing Diceros bicornis brucii and Diceros bicornis longipes as extinct. The most important difference to the above scheme is the inclusion of the extant southwestern subspecies from Namibia in D. b. bicornis instead of in its own subspecies, whereupon the nominal subspecies is not considered extinct.


  • The black rhino has two horns which are made of keratin In spite of its name, the black rhino is actually grey It is estimated that 96% of the black rhino population was lost between 1970 and 1992 The black rhino has characteristic pointed, prehensile upper lip, which is adapted for grasping leaves and twigs
  • Black rhinos have a 'prehensile', meaning hooked, lip for pulling leaves off branches.
  • Black rhinos are the third biggest of the five types of rhino.




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