Along with the three species of elephants and the hippopotamus, the white rhinoceros is one of the largest land mammals and the largest of all rhinoceros species living today. It has a head-torso length of 340 to 380 cm, a shoulder height of 150 to 180 cm and a weight of 1.8 to 2 t in cows and usually 1.8 to 2.5 t in bulls. Large bulls sometimes reach a weight of 3.5 t. The body is massively built, the limbs are very wide and short. Distinctive features are the very low-hanging head and a mighty neck hump, which is formed from connective tissue and musculature and gives the head-torso line a characteristic bend.
The body color of the white rhinoceros is slate gray like that of the related black rhinoceros, which is also common in Africa. The skin is on average 2 cm thick, but also reaches up to 4.5 cm at the neck hump and is very dense. It has only minor wrinkles, which may be related to the dense subcutaneous fatty tissue. The usually only visible fold is located at the upper ends of the front limbs. Except at the edges of the ears, the eyelids and at the end of the tail, the rhinoceros species is hairless. As further distinguishing features from the black rhinoceros, the white rhinoceros has large pointed ears and a wide, blunt mouth without a prehensile process. The lower lip forms a edge that replaces the missing incisors and with the help of which the animals tear off the grass food. Another distinctive feature is the two horns on the nose and forehead, with the front one usually being larger.