September 22nd is World Rhino Day. There are two African rhino species, often referred to as the ‘black rhino’ and the ‘white rhino’, even though both of them have a similar grey colour. The explanation one often reads is that this is a misunderstanding. The Dutch farmers in South Africa called the broad-lipped ‘white’ rhino the ‘wijde‘ rhino, because of its wide mouth. ‘Wijde‘ means ‘wide‘ in Dutch. The English thought they heard ‘white’ and then decided to call the other species the ‘black rhino’.

A nice story, but personally I think it’s slightly wrong. The Dutch were farmers and the ‘white rhino’ is the species of the open grassy plains, whereas the black rhino prefers the more dense bush area. I think the Dutch farmers called this rhino the ‘weide‘ rhino, not ‘wijde‘. Both words sound exactly the same, but the meaning of ‘weide‘ is more logical in this respect: ‘weide‘ means ‘meadow‘ in Dutch, which to me makes a lot of sense if you are a farmer and want to name a rhino species that walks between the cows in your meadow.

White rhino

Black rhino

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