Reading Rhino Tracks

Once you know what you’re looking for, rhino footprints are easy to spot.

Black and white rhinos have three toes – a large middle toe at the front with two smaller toes on the sides. This makes their spoor easy to differentiate from other similarly large-footed species, such as elephants and hippos, which both have four toes. The nails on each toe usually shows up clearly in the track.

The shape of the foot is quite similar in both species, especially in younger animals. However, the back of the white rhino’s heel tends to have more of an indentation in the middle, creating the impression of two lobes and making the foot look slightly elongated, whereas the black rhino’s spoor is more rounded.

The track of an adult white rhino is larger than that of a black rhino, measuring as much as 30cm at the widest point across the front foot. It’s important to remember that the rhino’s back feet are smaller than its front feet, so that you do not record two different individuals, when in fact it is the same rhino.

The footprints of both species are crisscrossed with a unique pattern of ‘cracks’. These make it possible for skilled trackers such as Pitso to recognise individuals from their spoor.