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

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.

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

King Grows Up
This special slideshow follows the growth of rhino King from birth through his first year of life!

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.

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.

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