One night I sat at a waterhole in Namibia watching a
pride of about six lions. After they had been
there a while, a black rhino cow wandered in with her
calf following behind her. The calf was not more
than a month or two old and I figured that once the
female noticed the lions, she would turn around and take
her daughter to safety. As she moved closer, she
noticed the pride and pressed on. Even when they
began to circle, she kept her calf close and with
snorts, huffs, and small charges, kept the lions back
until she got to the waterhole to drink. As soon
as she put her head down to the water, I thought for
sure the lions would try to approach. One look
from Momma Rhino, however, and they retreated
immediately. Her body language and threatening
snorts and charges were enough to prevent a serious
approach or attach from the predators. Even with a
significant advantage in number, they knew an attack on
a black mother’s calf could be costly. The mother
finished her drink and made her way back through the
pride with another small charge and snort before melting
into the darkness without looking back.
Black rhino cows become sexually mature at 6-8 years of age.
They generally have calves every 2-4 years. Black rhino calves
are usually weaned at approximately 18 months old and stay with
their mothers until their mothers calve again. Sometimes they
will rejoin their mothers after the new calf is born, but usually
they find another youngster to hang out with or a female that may or
may not have her own calf at foot. It is also not unusual for
an adult bull to allow a youngster to periodically spend some time
The bond between black rhino cows and their calves is very strong.
They will be inseparable for the first two years of the calf’s life
or until the cow calves again. During this time, the mother is
extremely protective of her calf and the only time they might be
apart is if the mother hides the calf while she browses or goes to
drink. This does not happen with all females in all environments
but hiding a calf in thick vegetation while traveling in the open to
a water source could reduce risk of a predator spotting the calf.
Black rhino males have limited interaction with their offspring.
Some individuals are more inclined to interact with them than
others, but as a general rule, they have little to no involvement in
the upbringing or protection of their calves.