Several disease syndromes in captive rhinoceroses have been linked to low vitamin status. Blood samples from captive and free-ranging black (Diceros bicornis) and white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) and tissue samples of captive individuals from four rhinoceros species were analysed for vitamins A and E. Circulating vitamin A levels measured as retinol for free-ranging versus captive black and white rhinoceros were 0.04 (+/- 0.03 SD) vs. 0.08 (+/- 0.08) and 0.07 (+/- 0.04) vs. 0.06 (+/- 0.02) microgram/ml, respectively. Circulating vitamin E levels measured as alpha-tocopherol were 0.58 (+/- 0.30) vs. 0.84 (+/- 0.96) and 0.62 (+/- 0.48) vs. 0.77 (+/- 0.32) microgram/ml, respectively. In contrast to earlier findings, there was no significant difference in vitamin E concentration between captive and free-ranging black rhinoceros. When the samples of captive black rhinoceros were grouped into those taken before 1990 and after 1990, however, those collected before 1990 had significantly lower (P < 0.001) vitamin E levels (0.46 +/- 0.83 microgram/ml) and those collected in 1990 or later significantly higher (P < 0.001) vitamin E levels (1.03 +/- 1.04 micrograms/ml) than the captive population as a whole. This is probably due to increased dietary supplementation. There were significant differences in circulating vitamin concentrations in black rhinoceroses from different regions in the wild. Serum 25-hydroxy (OH) vitamin D3 averaged 55.7 ng/ml in free-ranging rhinoceroses; no carotenoids were detected in any blood samples. Captive black and white rhinoceroses appear to be adequately supplemented in vitamin A and E. Captive Indian rhinoceroses (Rhinoceros unicornis) had significantly lower vitamin A concentrations in blood (P < 0.001) and higher vitamin A concentrations in liver tissue samples (P < 0.001) than other rhinoceros species. Equine requirements are not recommended as a model for rhinoceros vitamin requirements.