Understanding Middens

Being short-sighted, rhinos rely heavily on their sense of smell. Spraying faeces and urine are an important way of communicating with other rhinos – and a valuable source of information for our monitoring officers.

Spraying faeces and urine are a way of claiming ownership of a territory or leaving a calling card at a watering hole or feeding area. White rhino bulls spray urine onto vegetation and the ground to mark their patch, and kick their dung backwards with their hind legs to spread their scent around and get it on their feet.

A pile of rhino dung – a midden – holds valuable information for other rhinos. Their sensitive noses can tell how long ago the dung was left, as well as determining details such as the owner’s sex, status and reproductive condition.

Often several rhinos will add their own dung to the pile when passing by. Fortunately, black and white rhino dung is easy to tell apart. Black rhino dung is compact, woody and fibrous in appearance. It contains neatly snipped twiggy material due to the way the rhino’s teeth shear the tips off twigs. White rhino dung contains finely shaved grass.