White Rhinos, Kenya

White Rhinos, Kenya

The African rhino species originated on this planet about 14.2 million years ago.  Let’s take a look at this astounding creature.


A century ago, at least in Africa, rhinos were heading for extinction due to over-hunting in the colonial era.  Now, all five rhino species are killed for their horns, which are coveted for medicinal purposes and ornamental carvings.  Sadly, sophisticated poaching syndicates have evolved into organized crime, utilizing advanced technologies and weaponry.


The dwindling rhinoceros population is so depressing that I will stop talking about it at this point.  You can, however, click here to read the exact numbers of remaining species.  Fortunately, there have been enormous conservation efforts toward reviving the population; and the white rhinos, the most abundant rhino species, have increased.


There are rhinos in Africa and Asia, a total of five different species.  The two African rhinos are called Black and White; the Asian rhinos:  Greater one-horned, Sumatran, and Javan.  General rhinoceros info here.


White Rhino Family, Kenya

White Rhino Family, Kenya

It is only possible to observe wild rhinos by going to preserved wildlife sanctuaries.  We visited the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya, where these photos were taken.  It is 62,000 acres and heavily guarded, although when there you rarely, if ever, see a fence.  (For a little pop culture fact:  Lewa is where Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton in 2010.)  More about Lewa here.  On a previous safari we visited Lakipia Plains, also in Kenya.


The African Rhinos.  The black rhino is not black, and the white rhino is not white.  They are both brownish-gray.


Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya

The white rhino, seen here, is a grazer.  The mouth, for grazing on grass, is wide; so the Dutch named it “wijd” for wide.  But the early English speaking settlers mistakenly thought the word was “white” and that is how the wide-mouthed rhino became known as the white rhino.  They named the other rhino, that had a narrow mouth, black.


White rhinos are the largest of the five rhino species and are the world’s largest land mammal after elephants.  The males average 5,100 pounds (2,300 kg), females average 3,700 pounds (1,700 kg).  The male’s head and body length are 12-13 feet long (nearly 4m); and they stand about 5-6 feet high (about 180 cm).  In spite of their immense size, they can run up to 31 mph (50 km/h).  Gloriously enormous.


Barn Swallows greeting us, Lewa, Kenya

Barn Swallows greeting us, Lewa, Kenya

Black rhinos, more rare, are not grazers but browsers.  They eat leafy branches, shoots, and bushes, and are more solitary than the white rhino. They are known to be more aggressive than the white rhino, and are roughly half as big as the white rhino.


On our last day in Lewa, we had had a great day observing the rhinos.  As we were leaving, a wonderful cloud of spirited barn swallows surrounded us, apparently attracted to the bugs our vehicle had stirred up.  It was the perfect farewell.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Our Palace at Lewa

Our Palace at Lewa



36 thoughts on “Rhinoceros

  1. riginated…14.2 million years ago, wow! So glad to hear about the increase. 🙂 Thank you for sharing these fantastic photos and info, Jet!

  2. What is happening to the world rhino population is beyond both horrifying and terrifying….terrifying because people are so ignorant to believe that the horn of the rhino, made up of hair, is a cure, and terrifying that there are humans who are so debased that they will saw the horn of a rhino off and leave the animal to die a terrible death.
    I have good friends in South Africa who are doing all they can to raise awareness…but sadly it seems that greed is winning.
    Thank you, Jet for raising awareness with this excellent post. Janet.

    • It is both terrifying and horrifying, an abomination. I appreciate your passion, Janet, and your friends’ efforts, and the devoted efforts of so many others, too. The situation is dire, and ugly.

  3. What a gloriously sculpted posting, Jet. Fascinating, as always.
    So glad you included an explanation re: white/black differentiation.

    • Your use of the word “sculpted” is apt, Nan. This was not an easy one to write because of the devastation of the species, but I thought it was important to celebrate them, and not merely focus on the declination. Very glad you enjoyed it, dear Nan. 🙂

  4. Thanks for the interesting information about these massive creatures. How interesting to learn how their names came about and the differences between white rhinos and black rhinos. And thank you for heightening our awareness about how much protection and advocacy they need in order to continue to exist!

  5. I’m sure it would be amazing to see them in reality. Very beautiful creatures! I hope they won’t go extinct. It would be such a great loss… 😦

  6. Thanks for posting this. I was debating just today whether I wanted to work Rhino into a series of paintings that I’m working on. Now, I know I do. I might have mentioned to you while back that I was in Africa a few years ago. Rhino was only one of the Big Five that I didn’t get to see. I hope I add to to the conservation effort even in a small way by painting it as beautifully as I possibly can.

    • Sounds like a lovely idea. Their bodies are so unique, I am sure painting them would be an endearing process for you. Thanks so much, nomdicles, for your comment today. 😀

  7. Thanks for your great post on these endangered mammals. I’m sad thinking about what we humans have done to them. Now we have to make sure the rhinos will be there for future generations. I’ve also wondered why the rhinos were called “white” and “black” ~ thanks for telling that story too!

    • Thanks so much, Tiny. I was buoyed to see, while doing research for this post, the enormous number of people and organizations working diligently on this cause. It’s more than ever before (no doubt because the situation has become dire). Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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