“We do not inherit the world from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb.

A very rare occasion today as I write a blog that does not involve leopards! Shocking, I know. But what I will share with you is a sighting so rare I simply couldn’t keep it to myself…

We were sitting with a mother rhino and her two calves who were peacefully grazing in a clearing. The tranquil environment was broken by the sound of two male rhinos fighting nearby. We raced up the crest to the source of the sound and upon arrival we saw the two bulls having a stand off. Rich Laburn was on drive and was in the same area so also came up to see what all the fuss was about. There were two more females grazing nearby and watching the scuffle between the massive males. After feeling like he had won, the bigger of the two males approached the females. He simply strutted over, huffing and puffing, then proceeded to mount the younger of the two females. We were speechless. We stayed with them for roughly an hour in which time the male mounted the female several times. In between the mating sessions the male would charge both the other rhinos present and then return to trail his new-found interest.

Rhino courtship is often not a smooth process and the male may spend up to two weeks trailing a female until she gives in and allows him to mate. During this time the female will charge and chase the male off while making a deep grunting noise. The male by contrast will attempt to keep the female within his territory by blocking her path and making very unmasculine whining sound, similar to the kind of noise a whale would make. If the female is in full oestrus and decides that the male is a good enough candidate she will stand stiff legged, curl up her tail and allow the male to place his head on her rump. He will then mount the female. The mating itself is not a quick process and may last between 15-60 minutes. This may give rise to the myth that rhino horn makes a good aphrodisiac.

Females reach sexual maturity at 6–7 years of age while males reach sexual maturity between 10–12 years of age. Breeding pairs stay together between 5–20 days before they part and go their separate ways. The gestation period of a white rhino is 16 months. A single calf is born and usually weighs between 40 and 65 kg. Calves are unsteady for their first 2 to 3 days of life. When threatened the baby will run in front of the mother, who is very protective of her calf and will fight for it vigorously. Weaning starts at 2 months, but the calf may continue suckling for over 12 months. The birth interval for the white rhino is between 2 and 3 years and before giving birth the mother will chase off her current calf.

Enjoy the following sequence of pictures of the amazing rhino sighting…

The male Rhino takes a break from all the action to eat some grass.

Resting his giant head on her rump allows him to get leverage and mount the female.

The female readies herself by curling her tail up and stiffening her stance.

Leaning in, the female amazingly supports this massive male’s weight (about 2 tonnes) on her back.

A red billed oxpecker flies off, apparently looking for some less active targets.

The copulation may take up to an hour, putting huge physical strain on both animals. The length of mating is actually one of the reasons (not scientifically supported) their horn is believed to be an effective aphrodisiac in some cultures.

The male mounts the female for the third time as a mother with two calves moves off in the clearing below. Rhino bulls can become quite aggressive when attempting to get a female to mate and mothers with young calves will tend to avoid them.

A stand off between the male (left) and the second female who was repeatedly chased off.

Written and Photographed by Nick Kleer.
Video by Rich Laburn.

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

Nick Kleer

Field Guide

Nick joined the Londolozi team from Thornybush Game Reserve, and immediately began revealing his photographic potential, especially in the passion with which he pursued knowledge. An almost fanatical approach to improving his photography has seen him gain a rapid understanding of all the ...

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8 Comments

on Once in a Lifetime?!
    Darlene Knott says:

    Wow, this was an amazing sighting! I would so loved to have been there. Just seeing the photos makes me want to hop on a plane! However, I know that this is rare. You were so very fortunate. Thanks for sharing the amazing photos and relating the story.

    Dawn Phillips says:

    Wonderful story! Thank you. I hope this means another little one for the future of the precious rhino.

    Alison Smith says:

    Thank you for sharing Nick and Rich! didn’t think I’d ever see or read about this!Sympathy for the female!

    Sibu says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful article Nick, learned more about the precious Giants. So only one calf is born ? has there been any reported cases of twins ?

    Nick Kleer says:

    Hi Sibu. Although twins have been recorded in big mammals such as elephants and rhinos in the wild it is highly unlikely and uncommon.. Thanks, Amy

    The Schwarz Family says:

    We were so lucky to witness this amazing scene with you. Thank you for making our trip so memorable.

    Wendy Hawkins says:

    Thank you Nick & Rich for sharing this amazing spectacle! Your pictures & video are so beautiful <3

    Vicky Sanders says:

    WOW! I would give anything to be able to see something like this. What an amazing sighting! And poor female…2 tons…oh my!

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