All rhinoceroses are placed in the order of Perissodactyla. Perissodactyla comes from the Greek word ‘perissos’, which means odd number and ‘dactulos’ meaning finger or toe in Greek.
The order Perissodactyla is comprised of three families; the Equidae (horses), the Tapiridae (Tapirs) and the Rhinocerotidae to which the rhinos belong.
There are four genera of rhinos within the family. The Black rhino is placed in the genus Diceros.
The genus Diceros has one recent species, Diceros bicornis, the Black rhino which was first described by Gray in 1821. The name Diceros bicornis comes from Greek and Latin, Diceros from the Greek “di”, meaning “two” and “ceros”, meaning “horn” and bicornis from the Latin “bi”, meaning “two” and “cornis”, meaning “horn”.
There are four subspecies recognised within the Black rhino; the eastern ssp. (D.b. micheali), the south-western ssp. (D.b. bicornis), the south-central ssp. (D.b. minor) and the western ssp. (D.b. longipes), which has recently been reported extinct.
Black rhinos are actually not black at all. The name Black rhinoceros probably derives as a distinction from the White rhino (itself a misnomer), both species are grey. The White rhino having apparently derived its name from a variation of the early Cape Dutch word ‘wijdt’ meaning wide referring to the wide mouth of the White or Square-lipped rhino. Black rhinoceros can also refer to the dark-coloured local soil that often covers its skin after wallowing in the mud. Another common name for the Black rhino is prehensile or hook-lipped rhinoceros referring to the upper lip of the Black rhino which is adapted for feeding from trees and shrubs and it is its best distinguishing characteristic.