How Are Black and White Rhinos Different?

There are several differences between the black rhino and the white rhino, but color is not one of them. Confusingly, both the white and black versions of this horned behemoth are actually gray. The most conspicuous differences between the two species are their lips and mouths. A black rhino has a hooked lip, which helps it snack on leaves from trees and bushes -- even the prickly varieties. On the other hand, the white rhino has a square lip, which allows it to graze on grasses found in their homelands in southern Africa. Black and white rhinos are built differently, too. White rhinos have bigger heads, longer necks, and longer tails.

The answer, in black and white:

  • Both species face extinction due to poaching. In some cultures, it is believed their horns have medicinal value, but there’s no evidence of that. The composition of rhino horn is similar to a human’s fingernails.
  • White rhinos are the second-largest land mammal -- second only to the elephant. Adult males can weigh 8,000 pounds (3,629 kg) and grow to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall.
  • Dutch settlers in South Africa initially called the white rhinos “weid mond rhino,” correctly translated as “wide-mouth rhino.” The term “white rhino” was a mis-translation that has somehow stuck.
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