The giant behemoth that is the White Rhinoceros just does not have the crooning love song or the social skills with the opposite sex that you may expect. Recently we found a courting pair and watched as the bull tried to win her heart with a rather surprising outcome.
Despite their great size the bulls tend to make a rather pitiful sound. Sweet serenading takes the form of high pitched squeaking and whining. The female, who in this situation still had her most recent calf nearby, was having none of it. This is not unusual, as males can follow and court females for up to 20 days. During this time he will trail her and block her from leaving his territory, essentially trapping her until she is ready to mate.
Normally when she comes into full estrus he will sense this in her urine and will then make his move. Females will mock charge the male making threatening snarls and deep bellows and typically the male would back off but this bull seemed fed up with her playing hard to get and took a much more aggressive stance resulting in some actual horn clashing and sparring. What amazed me was how close by the young calf stood to its mother, refusing to leave her despite the bulls aggressive approaches.
Eventually the female will allow the male to rest his chin on her rump and attempt to mount her. It will normally take another whole day or so of this before she will actually lift her tail and allow the copulation to take place, which lasts anywhere between 20 and 60 minutes.
Although I’m not sure if this female was in full estrus or not and we didn’t actually witness the male and female mating, the interaction between these animals was fascinating. Have a look at the footage of this unusual behaviour below and you’ll see why we left with big smiles mixed with a little relief; happy that the cantankerous male did not try take out any of his frustration on us.
Have any of you ever seen rhinos mating or watched interesting courtship behaviour in the wild?