The southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) occurs in largest numbers in South Africa, but is also found in smaller populations in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Botswana. Within South Africa, large populations of southern white rhinos live in Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi (IUCN SSC 2008).
White rhinos feed on grasses and for that reason are classified as grazers. In this respect, their diet differs notably from their sister species, the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis). Black rhinos do not feed on grasses extensively and instead eat small shrubs and woody vegetation such as acacia seedlings—for this reason they are classified as browsers (instead of grazers). Black rhinos have a prehensile lip that enables them to grasp seedlings and pull them from the ground.
White rhinos, in contrast, have square-shaped lips which enable them to tear wide clumps of grass as they graze. White rhinos have a long skull and hold their head close to the ground, they also have short legs—together these physical characteristics make them well-suited to their grazing lifestyle.
Among land mammals, the white rhinoceros is second in size only to elephants. White rhinos have two horns, a short neck and hump on the back of the neck. Despite their name, white rhino are not white but are instead brown to slate grey. White rhinos live in home ranges that differ in size depending on the resources within their bounds. They rely on access to water for drinking and bathing. To mark their territories, they spray urine, spread dung, and mangle plants with their horns.
- Mass: 2.3 tons (male) 1.8 tons (female)
- Body Length: 3.75 m (male) 3.6 m (female)
- Tail Length: 70 cm
- Shoulder Height: 1.9 m (male) 1.75 m (female)
- Diet: grazers (grasses)
- Breeding Season: throughout the year
- Age at Sexual Maturity: 10 years (male), 6 years (female)
- Gestation Period: 490 days
- Number of Offspring: 1 (4-year birth interval)
- Predators: humans, lions, hyenas
- Average Lifespan: 45 years
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Perissodactyla
- Family: Rhinocerotidae
- Genus: Ceratotherium
- Species: Ceratotherium simum
The species Ceratotherium simum contains the following subgroups:
- Subspecies: Ceratotherium simum cotini (northern white rhinoceros)
- Subspecies: Ceratotherium simum simum (southern white rhinoceros)