Despite the names, each of these two species are both grey in colour but there are five features you can look closely at to tell them apart. Depending on your viewpoint and the individuals you’re observing, some will be clearer than others as distinctions.
The easiest way to tell which of the two species you’re looking at is by getting a good view of their upper lip:
Tip: Black rhino also tend to carry their heads high while white rhino hold their heads a little lower – closer to the ground for grazing!
Tip: the shape of a black rhino horn also differs between sexes: with males tending to have thicker horns, and the females often longer and thinner ones.
In addition, there are also some behavioural observations which help to identify which species you’re looking at.
As mentioned earlier:
Tip: This is not a fool-proof method as behaviour is not as predictable as physical characteristics.
When tracking rhino on safari, you can also take a look at any dung you come across.
As a whole species, black rhino are more rare than the white rhino:
The answer to this is straightforward with regards to the two species as a whole but confusion can arise with regards to the statuses of the subspecies.
There are two subspecies of white rhino, northern white rhino and southern white rhino:
Southern white rhino can be found in four African countries: Kenya, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya has around 70 southern white rhino.
If you’d like to visit the last remaining northern white rhino, Najin and Fatu, you may like to find out more about Governors’ luxury accommodation in Laikipia.
There are four subspecies of black rhino; south-eastern black rhino, eastern black rhino, western black rhino and south-western black rhino:
All three of the extant subspecies of black rhino can be found in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Rwanda. You can see them on safari in Kenya. Lake Nakuru National Park has around 25 eastern black rhino (one of the largest populations in the country). The Masai Mara National Reserve has one of the few natural populations of Eastern Black Rhino in Africa, with around 50-60 individuals. An exciting and fairly recent conservation story is the release of five captive black rhinoceros into Akagera National Park, Rwanda last Summer (2019).
Recommended safaris and accommodation:
Kenya and Rwanda are both fantastic destination options for travellers hoping to see rhino in the wild. Visit our location pages or get in touch for help planning your safari.