Eastern black rhinoceros

Latin Name
Diceros bicornis michaeli




Eastern black rhinoceroses stand up to 12 feet long and five feet high at the shoulder. They weigh up to 3,000 pounds. This species posses two horns made up of fibrous keratin. The forward is horn larger—up to 28 inches. Their coat color varies with soil color, since these animals wallow in the mud to stay cool. Rhino species do not differ much in color, and the popular names of black and white rhino probably arose from local soil covering the first specimens seen.



Eastern Africa


This species is listed as endangered and trade of is prohibited by international law. The primary cause of population decline is hunting; rhino horn made into dagger handles is a symbol of wealth in many countries. Contrary to popular opinion, the horn is not consumed primarily as an aphrodisiac; only small amounts are used for this purpose.

Lincoln Park Zoo participates in the Eastern Black Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan®, a shared conservation effort by zoos throughout the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. We're also proud to assist conservation efforts by monitoring rhino health in South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park.


Eastern black rhinos inhabit transitional zones between grasslands and forests, generally in thick thorn bush or acacia scrub. However, they may also be found in more open country.


As a herbivorous browser, the black rhino eats leafy plants as well as branches, shoots, thorny wood bushes and fruit. Rhino skin harbors many external parasites, which are eaten by tickbirds and egrets that live with the rhino. Young are preyed upon by hyenas. These solitary animals are more nocturnal than diurnal. Females are not territorial; their ranges vary according to food supply. Males are more aggressive in defending turf, but will tolerate properly submissive male intruders.

Life History

Mating is non-seasonal, but births peak toward the end of the rainy season in drier habitats. Gestation is 15-16 months, after which single young are born weighing about 85 pounds. These calves are active soon after birth and can follow mother after about three days. Eastern black rhinos mature at five years.

Special Adaptations
  • Thick, layered skin protects rhinos from sharp grasses and thorns. Thick, padded soles on their feet absorb shock and cushion legs.
  • A prehensile upper lip helps in foraging and browsing.
  • Large ears can rotate to pick up sounds from many directions.
  • Horns used for defense and possibly display.
  • The eastern black rhino's aggressive disposition discourages predators. They tend to charge first and investigate later.

Bonus Content

Happy Birthday to King
Baby rhino King turned 1 on August 26, 2014 at the Harris Family Foundation Black Rhinoceros Exhibit! The growing guy and mom Kapuki enjoyed some outsized enrichment to mark the occasion. Thanks to the zoo’s Volunteer Enrichment Group for their “cake-making” skills.

Big Pharma
What’s the proper dosage of anti-inflammatory medicine for an arthritic rhinoceros? A zoo vet compiled a body of evidence—literally—over two years to learn the answer.

King chews a bit of the browse from his birthday cake.

Post from the President—A King-Sized Celebration
Baby rhino King turned 1 on August 26, 2014! President and CEO Kevin Bell shares the fun details from his party--and looks at how rhinos in the wild need our help.

New Arrivals 2014
It has been a busy year at Lincoln Park Zoo so far! Here we highlight the newest species living and growing under the zoo's care.

Baby rhino King and mom Kapuki trot around the outdoor yard at the Harris Family Foundation Black Rhinoceros Exhibit.

King Grows Up
Follow the growth of the zoo's baby rhino, King, in this special slideshow, which tracks his development from birth to today!

Male rhino (and new dad) Maku noses at one of the pumpkins placed in his exhibit at the Harris Family Foundation Black Rhinoceros Exhibit.

Happy Halloween!
There are no tricks, only treats at Lincoln Park Zoo as gorillas, pied tamarins and rhinos enjoy some special pumpkin enrichment.

Mom Kapuki and baby rhino King nuzzle in their outdoor exhibit.

Post from the President—Baby Rhino Makes His Debut
Meet King! President and CEO Kevin Bell shares the debut of the zoo's baby black rhino.

The baby rhino behind the scenes

Post from the President—A Big Baby
A male black rhino was born August 26 at the Harris Family Foundation Black Rhinoceros Exhibit, President and CEO Kevin Bell shares. The new arrival—a welcome one for an endangered species--is bonding with mom behind the scenes.

Lincoln Park Zoo's rhinos offer a connection to their endangered counterparts in the wild, whose numbers are declining due to poaching.

A Rhino Tribute for Endangered Species Day
For Endangered Species Day, Curator of Mammals Mark Kamhout reflects on the privilege of working with one of the zoo’s more endangered—and imposing—species: black rhinos.

A black rhino snoozes in front of the camera trap at Addo National Elephant Park.

What Keeps a Rhino from Sleeping?
How do black rhinos sleep in the wild? Scientist Rachel Santymire catches up on their Zs with help from camera traps in South Africa's Addo Elephant National Park.

One of Lincoln Park Zoo’s black rhinos shows off the horn that defines the species.

Helping Rhinos Together
President and CEO Kevin Bell returns from an International Rhino Foundation board meeting to share facts on rhino poaching—and how zoos conserve these amazing animals.

A black rhinoceros takes a bite out the Aon Center at Harris Family Foundation Black Rhinoceros Habitat.

Animals Eat the Skyline at Chi-Cow-Go
The zoo celebrated Chicago’s 175th birthday with a bovine bash. The fun kicked off with the unveiling of a redesigned "Cows on Parade" statue before moving to the rest of the zoo with Chicago-themed animal enrichment.

To wrap up National Zookeeper Week, we wanted to share some favorite photos we’ve taken of Lincoln Park Zoo’s wonderful keepers over the years.

Keeper Close-Ups
To wrap up National Zookeeper Week, we wanted to share some favorite photos we’ve taken of Lincoln Park Zoo’s wonderful keepers over the years.

South Africa Black Rhino Conservation
Endocrinologist Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, takes us along as she collaborates on a project to conserve black rhinos in South Africa.


Lincoln Park Zoo Exhibit