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What Do Rhinos Eat? 5 Species Guide to Feeding Habits / Diets

What do rhinos eat? In this article, you’ll learn about the eating habits of all 5 rhino species (white, black, Indian, Javan, and Sumatran). We’ll also discuss additional questions about rhinoceros diets and eating habits.

What do Rhinoceros Eat?

All 5 species of rhinoceros are herbivores, only eating plants and other vegetation. Rhinos are browsers and grazers. Browsers tend to favor eating leaves and fruits from bushes and shrubs. Grazers, on the other hand, favor low-growing vegetation like grass.

what do rhinos eat

The leaves and grasses available vary, depending on the habitat of the individual species. This means that a rhinoceros that lives in the jungle will eat differently than a rhino that lives in the savanna.

Here are more details on the feeding habits of each of the 5 species of rhinoceros:

1. The White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum)

  • Distribution: Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
  • Habitat: Grassland and savanna

The white rhino is also known as the ‘square-lipped’ rhino. Its flat, wide upper lip is perfect for grazing, allowing it to nibble on the shortest of grasses.

This is perfect for a rhino that lives in grassland. Unlike some of the other rhino species, the white rhino is just a grazer.

Learn more about the white rhinoceros.

rhino diets
White rhino feeding on grass and low foliage

2. The Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis)

  • Distribution: Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe
  • Habitat: Tropical grassland, shrublands, and deserts

Like the white rhino, the black rhino has unique lips. The shape of their lips is related to their diet. Black rhinos are also known as the ‘hook-lipped’ rhino.

As browsers, their hook shaped lips help them to pull the leaves and fruit off of branches.

Along with leaves, they also like eating herbs and succulents. In fact, the black rhino is known to eat more than 200 different species of plants. But they tend to stay away from grass.

3. The Indian Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis)

  • Distribution: India and Nepal
  • Habitat: Tropical grassland, shrublands, wetlands, and savanna

The Indian rhino is a grazer, feeding on grass. Interestingly, they love being in the water- spending up to 60 percent of the day wading in shallow pools.

As a result, they eat a wide variety of aquatic plants. They can even feed underwater.

The Indian rhino is also known as the greater one-horned rhino.

indian rhino diet
Indian rhino feeding on grass near shallow pools

4. The Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus)

  • Distribution: The few remaining Javan Rhinos are in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia
  • Habitat: Tropical and Subtropical forests

The Javan rhino has a diverse diet. Sometimes they graze on grass.

But, they also use their long upper lips to browse on leaves, new plant shoots, twigs, and fallen fruit.

5. The Sumantran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumantrensis)

  • Distribution: The Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo
  • Habitat: Tropical and Subtropical forests

The smallest and hairiest of the rhinos, this jungle dweller has a wide variety of vegetation available to eat.

Being browsers, their preferred foods included plant tips, leaves, twigs, and fruit.

8 Questions About Rhino Diets

Here are the answers to a few more questions you may have regarding the eating habits of rhinoceros.

1. Do rhinos eat meat?

No, as herbivores rhinos do not eat meat.

Some herbivores, like giraffes, will occasionally nibble on an animal carcass to make up for a deficiency in their diet. But this behavior has not been observed in rhinoceros.

2. Would a rhinoceros eat a human?

No. Rhinos are herbivores, so humans are not on their menu. However, that doesn’t mean that you should try to antagonize one.

While rare, there is an average of 2 rhino attacks on humans each year. These attacks are usually not fatal, but it is still better to give them their space.

According to Rhino Fund, “there is little evidence that rhinos have killed humans unlike hippos, crocodiles, elephants, buffalo and lions.” Source (link opens pdf in new tab).

3. How much does a rhino eat?

Not all rhinos are the same size. The white rhino and the Indian rhino are the largest of the 5 species weighing up to 5,952.5 pounds (2,700 kilograms).

They can eat up to 120 pounds (54 kilograms) of food each day.

4. How much of a rhino’s day is spent eating?

Around one-third of their day is spent eating.

Unlike humans who usually eat 3 meals a day, rhinos will eat whenever they feel like it, and as the opportunity arises.

5. Does a rhinoceros need to drink water?

If water is available to them, a rhino will drink it every day. But, if need be, they can go several days without, surviving on the moisture in the vegetation they consume.

6. Do rhinos have multiple stomachs?

Rhinoceros are monogastric, meaning that they only have one stomach compartment.

Along the same line, they do not chew cud.

7. What does a baby rhino eat?

A baby rhino will drink its mother’s milk until it is weaned.

Depending on the species, this will occur between 1 to 1.5 years. In the meantime, it will start eating solid plant material.

8. Do rhinos eat poop?

Baby rhinos will eat their mother’s defecated material. They do this from the time they are around 3 months of age until they are 7 months old. Although it may sound disgusting, there is a good reason for this.

Plant matter is hard to digest, and a baby rhino isn’t born with the necessary microorganisms in its digestive tract.

However, these microorganisms can be found in mama rhino’s poop. So by eating it, a baby rhino is getting prepared to take on solid food.

How fast can a rhino run? Here’s the speed of all 5 rhino species.

what does a rhinoceros eat

Interested in other animals? Here’s what spotted hyenas, kangaroos, and Galapagos sharks eat.

You might also enjoy: 22 Rhinoceros Beetle Facts

Your Turn

Did you learn something new about the feeding habits of rhinoceros? Is there something that I missed? Let me know in the comments below.