The white rhinoceros or square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is the largest extant species of rhinoceros. It has a wide mouth used for grazing and is the most social of all rhino species. The white rhinoceros is the largest of the five species of rhinoceros and the world's largest land mammal after the three species of elephant. It weighs slightly more on average than a hippopotamus despite a considerable mass overlap between these two species. It has a massive body and large head, a short neck and broad chest.
The head and body length is 3.7 to 4 m (12.1 to 13.1 ft) in males and 3.4 to 3.65 m (11.2 to 12.0 ft) in females, with the tail adding another 70 cm (28 in) and the shoulder height is 170 to 186 cm (5.58 to 6.10 ft) in the male and 160 to 177 cm (5.25 to 5.81 ft) in the female. The male, averaging about 2,300 kg (5,100 lb) is heavier than the female, at an average of about 1,700 kg (3,700 lb). The largest size the species can attain is not definitively known, specimens of up to 3,600 kg (7,900 lb) are considered reliable, while larger sizes have been claimed but are not verified. On its snout it has two horn-like growths, one behind the other.
These are made of solid keratin, in which they differ from the horns of bovids (cattle and their relatives), which are keratin with a bony core, and deer antlers, which are solid bone. The front horn is larger and averages 60 cm (24 in) in length, reaching as much as 150 cm (59 in) but only in females. The white rhinoceros also has a noticeable hump on the back of its neck. Each of the four stumpy feet has three toes. The color of the body ranges from yellowish brown to slate grey. Its only hair is the ear fringes and tail bristles. White rhinos have a distinctive broad, straight mouth which is used for grazing. Its ears can move independently to pick up sounds but it depends most of all on smell. The olfactory passages which are responsible for smell are larger than their entire brain. The white rhinoceros has the widest set nostrils of any land based animal.
White rhinoceroses are found in grassland and savannah habitat. Herbivore grazers that eat grass, preferring the shortest grains, the white rhinoceros is one of the largest pure grazers. It drinks twice a day if water is available, but if conditions are dry it can live four or five days without water. It spends about half of the day eating, one third resting, and the rest of the day doing various other things. White rhinoceroses, like all species of rhinoceros, love wallowing in mudholes to cool down.
The white Rhinoceros is thought to have changed the structure and ecology of the savanna's grasslands. Comparatively based on studies of the African elephant, scientist believe the white Rhino is a driving factor in its ecosystem. The destruction of the megaherbivore could have serious cascading effects on the ecosystem and harm other animals. White rhinoceroses produce sounds which include a panting contact call, grunts and snorts during courtship, squeals of distress, and deep bellows or growls when threatened. Threat displays (in males mostly) include wiping its horn on the ground and a head-low posture with ears back, combined with snarl threats and shrieking if attacked. The vocalisations of the two species are slightly different.
The white rhinoceros is quick and agile and can run 50 km/h (31 mph). White rhinoceroses live in crashes or herds of up to 14 animals (usually mostly female). Sub-adult males will congregate, often in association with an adult female. Most adult bulls are solitary. Dominant bulls mark their territory with excrement and urine. The dung is laid in well defined piles. It may have 20 to 30 of these piles to alert passing rhinoceroses that it is his territory. Another way of marking their territory is wiping their horns on bushes or the ground and scrapes with its feet before urine spraying. They do this around 10 times an hour while patrolling territory.
The same ritual as urine marking except without spraying is also commonly used. The territorial male will scrape-mark every 30 m (98 ft) or so around its territory boundary. Subordinate males do not mark territory. The most serious fights break out over mating rights with a female. Female territory overlaps extensively, and they do not defend it.