White rhinos may look like battle tanks, but really they're about as languid as languid grazers come. Yet despite their typically docile demeanour, the square-lipped pachyderms do occasionally go on the offensive. And when that happens, it's best not to hang around.

Visitors to South Africa's Kruger National Park learned that important lesson recently when a white rhino charged their vehicle, forcing the driver to take evasive action. The clip, captured earlier this month, kicks off with a rhino lumbering alongside the tarmac as vehicles inch their way down the road. The animal looks on from its spot in the brush, seemingly unperturbed – until, with little warning, the grey mass takes off, hurtling at speed towards the closest car. Realising his vehicle is in line for some unwanted customisation, the driver hits the gas, narrowly missing both the charging animal and a nearby vehicle.

The rhino, meanwhile, trundles off and reverts to its listless mien.

So what triggered the belligerent behaviour? It's possible the tourists had crossed paths with a territorial bull. To prove their reproductive worth, male rhinos often lay claim to territory, which they'll defend vehemently from rival bulls. Female territories typically overlap with those of dominant males, so when a rhino cow comes to visit, the bulls may ramp up those defensive tactics. The clip shows some spectator rhinos milling around in the background, and that group may have included a female and her calves.

It is unusual, however, to see a white rhino agitated enough to actually initiate a full-on charge – that behaviour is more typical of the smaller, but more aggressive, black rhino. It's possible that this particular individual took exception to the loud vehicles and was simply seeing them off in the only way a two-tonne rhino knows how. Regardless of the motivation for the charge, though, there's a lesson to be learnt here: no matter how docile the animal may be appear, always give these behemoths their space.



Header image: Teddy Llovet