Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Chiroptera / Rhinolophidae / Rhinolophus / Species
Rhinolophus hipposideros - Lesser horseshoe bat (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)








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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Petit rhinolophe (French)
  • Kleine Hufeisennase (German)
  • Murciélago pequeño de herradura (Spanish)

Alternative species names (the second part of the binomial species names): [Genus] anomalus; [Genus] bihastatus; [Genus] bifer; [Genus] escalerae; [Genus] helvetica; [Genus] intermedius; [Genus] kashyiriensis; [Genus] majori; [Genus] midas; [Genus] minimus; [Genus] minutus; [Genus] moravicus; [Genus] pallidus; [Genus] phasma; [Genus] trogophilus; [Genus] typus; [Genus] vespa (B141).

Names for new-borns / juveniles

Names for males --
Names for females --

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General Appearance

Teaspoon-sized buff-brown bat (greyer in juveniles) with broad wings. Hangs free with wings wrapped around body (sometimes at sides when not torpid). Membranes shiny black. Face and ears usually covered by wings while torpid. Complex horseshoe-shaped nose-leaf. Ears lack tragus. Forearm 35.0-42.5mm in adults (less than 45mm long) (B52, B142, B167).

Similar Species

Other bats.
  • Distinguished from Vespertilionid bats by: complex horseshoe nose leaf and lack of ear tragus.
  • Distinguished from Rhinolophus ferrumequinum - greater horseshoe bat by size (teaspoon rather than tablespoon size, and forearm less than 45mm long.

(B142, B167)

Sexual Dimorphism Males slightly smaller than females: about 2% smaller as measured by forearm length (B142).

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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B51, B52, B141, B142, B143, B147, B167, B221

Husbandry references:
B142, B168.7.w7

(UK Contacts)

(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

  • --

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Insectivorous Bats (Microchiroptera)

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • Insectivorous Bats (Microchiroptera)

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Husbandry Information


Very difficult to maintain in captivity even short term (e.g. few days) (B142, B168.7.w7)
Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

  • Head-body length: 35-39mm (B142).
  • Forearm length: 35-42.5mm; males mean 37.4mm, females mean 38.1mm (B142).
  • Wingspan: 225-250mm (B142).
Height --
Adult weight General
  • Lose about 13% of weight over winter (B142)
  • Lose about 23% of weight over winter (B142).
New-born weight
  • About 1.8g (B142).
Growth rate
  • About 3.8-4.2g by time flying from roost (B142).

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General Skull:

Nose: Nose leaf length less than 12mm, width 8mm. Complex, with lower horseshoe around nostrils, raised sella (central plate) joined by a longitudinal connecting process, flattened in the sagittal plane, to upper triangular lancet with free tip projecting upwards against forehead. (B52, B142, B147, B167).

Ears: Widely spaced. Large, triangular, no tragus, but have broad antitragus behind basal notch. (B52, B142, B167).

Dentition (Teeth)

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Legs and Tracks

  • Wings broad with rounded ends (B52, B147).
  • Forearm length: 35-42.5mm; males mean 37.4mm, females mean 38.1mm (B142).
  • Wingspan: 225-250mm (B142).
  • Hind legs long and thin (B142).

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  • Relatively short (B142).

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Coat / Pelage

Adult Female Thick, fluffy,
  • Dorsal: buff-brown; hairs pale buff with darker tips.
  • Ventral slightly paler.
  • Ears have white centres

(B142, B167)

Variations (If present)
  • Darker with age (B142).
New-born / Juvenile

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Neonate (New-born) Characteristics


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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Reproductive: Single pair functional pectoral nipples, also pair pelvic nipples ("dummy teats"), not milk producing, gripped by young to retain hold on female (B142, B147).

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Reproductive Stages

Breeding Season
  • Mating usually September to November; can be later (B142).
Oestrus / Ovulation
  • Ovulation mid-April.
Gestation / Pregnancy
  • About two months. Length varies depending on periods of torpor (when development slowed) (B142).
  • About seven weeks (B147).
Parturition / Birth
  • Late spring (B147).
Neonatal development
  • Fly from roost by about 4-5 weeks: first juveniles flying in early August in County Clare (B142).
Litter size
  • One. Single record of two embryos (B142)
Time between Litters / Litters per year
Lactation / Milk Production
  • About 4-5 weeks (B142).
Sexual Maturity
  • In UK: females usually at least 15 months old.
  • Czechoslovakia: small percentage mate by January - less than one year old.
  • Some individuals may be three years old before first produce young.


  • 14 years recorded UK, 18 years recorded continental Europe (B142).

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Natural Diet

  • Nematoceran flies, moths, caddis flies, lacewings.
  • Also craneflies, small beetles.
  • Diptera, Lepidoptera and Neuroptera important (B143).

(B52, B142)

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

  • Highly variable, depending on environmental temperature.
  • Increase to 30°C prior to flight and to 40°C while flying.


Pulse --
Respiration --
Faeces 6-8 by 1.7mm approximate, usually dark brown, but paler when moths have been eaten (B142).
Haematology / Biochemistry --
Chromosomes 2n = 56, FNa = 60 (B142).
Other --

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Feeding Behaviour

  • Initially follow regular flight paths, then into dense vegetation. Forage particularly over water and farmyards. Low, slow hunting flight, with frequent circling.
  • Highly manoeuvrable.
  • Use high-frequency ultrasound pulses.
  • Able to chew and echolocate simultaneously, since ultrasound pulses emitted through nostrils.
  • Take large prey items to temporary night roosts for eating.

(B52, B142, B147)

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Parental Behaviour

Female leaves young in roost while feeding (B142).

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality

Intra-specific Similar to that of Rhinolopus ferrumequinum - Greater horseshoe bat:
  • Immatures gregarious year-round.
  • Colonies of immatures plus adult males formed in winter, up to 300 animals per colony.
  • Adult females more solitary in winter.
  • Nursery colonies of adult females, with males leaving by mid summer (when births occurring).
  • May form groups with individuals only a few centimetres apart.
  • No evidence of hierarchy and little aggression among bats roosting in summer.
  • Some aggressive chasing behaviour after leaving roost and possibly at feeding grounds.
  • At hibernacula: 1) mainly first-year animals, with some older immature individuals and sometimes adult males also mid-winter. 2) Mainly second and third year immatures, few first year immatures, sometimes surplus adult males, sometimes females up to six years old but remain solitary. 3) Single breeding male in territory (often small). Up to eight females may visit late September/October. Male may remain through winter or move to larger site if temperature at breeding territory unsuitable for hibernation. Females move to deeper areas of other hibernacula for most of winter, returning to male territory in spring and may remain until mid-June.


  • Clusters of up to 150 bats may form in cooler sites in summer, particularly during lactation (B142).
Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

  • Promiscuous.
  • Available data suggest territorial system with females coming into small hibernacula of breeding males, as with Rhinolophus ferrumequinum - Greater horseshoe bat.

(B52, B142)

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Predation in Wild

  • Domestic cats (B142).

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Activity Patterns

  • Very agile fliers.
  • Able to take off from ground, even in confined areas.
  • On horizontal surfaces use wings for thrust, travelling in series of leaps.
  • Less often pull themselves backwards.
  • N.B. echolocation pulses produced by nostrils.
  • Usually roost hanging freely with wings wrapped around body.
  • Shorter deep hibernation period than Rhinolopus ferrumequinum - Greater horseshoe bat (B142).
  • Shifts in roost sites during summer are frequent.
  • Winter movements short (usually less than 1.5km) and rare.
  • May emerge to feed on wild evenings during winter, with high proportion feeding on such nights in December, but lower proportions emerging January to March.

(B52, B142, B147, B167)

  • Endogenous rhythm suggested by recorded synchronisation of winter arousals with dusk.
  • Activity begins with brief flights ("light-sampling" behaviour) after sunset, e.g. 25 minutes after, or earlier when cloudy.
  • Return to roost about 30 minutes before sunrise.
  • Individuals return to rest between dusk and dawn flights (B142).


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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

  • Sheltered valleys with extensive deciduous woods / dense scrub, plus a range of nearby suitable roost sites preferred (B142).
  • Broadleaf deciduous woodland and riparian habitats, foraging both within and along edges. Hedgerows and tree lines important where habitat fragmented (B143).
  • Sea level to 2000m (B143).

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

  • Roost sites: attics, chimneys, boiler rooms, cellars, tunnels, sewer pipes, disused mines, caves (B142).
  • Single site used if range of temperatures available within it; otherwise females may change site during summer (B142).
  • Frequent shifts between roost sites in summer (B142).
  • In mild winters population scattered, but in severe weather may be found in large numbers in extensive systems (B142)
  • Hibernacula relative humidity usually over 90% (B142).
  • Originally: caves used all year. More recently: buildings used in summer (B143).

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Southwest Europe and north-west Africa eastwards to western Himalayas (B142).

Western Palearctic from Ireland westwards through western, central and southern Europe, to Kashmir; also south to north-western Africa and through western Arabia to Ethiopia, Sudan (B143).

"British Isles to Arabian Peninsula and Central Asia, Morocco to Ethiopia." (B147).

  • In Britain: found in Wales and south-western England; also found in western Ireland (B142).


  • Sedentary.
  • Winter and summer roosts usually no more than 5-10km apart (B143)
  • Movement of 153km longest recorded (B143).
Occasional and Accidental --


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Intraspecific variation

  • Rhinolopus hipposideros minutus has been used to describe British animals on basis of slightly smaller size, but data indicates no size difference. Not considered a valid subspecies (B142).
  • Size variation across Europe may be associated with variations in local climatic conditions (B143).
  • Two to seven subspecies recognised by different authors (B143).

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
  • Highly localised populations (B142).
  • Declines in population noted over second half of Twentieth Century, particularly in northern range (e.g. Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland), with extinction in Netherlands (B143).
  • Population stabilisation/recovery where roosts protected (B143)
  • In Britain: native, rare and endangered. Pre-breeding population estimate of 14,000, including 7000 in England, 0 in Scotland, 7000 in Wales. Population estimate is considered likely to be inaccurate by no more than 25% in either direction (B221)
General Legislation
  • Bern Convention, Appendix II.
  • Bonn Convention, Appendix II.
  • EU Habitats & Species Directive, Annex II and Annex IV.


CITES listing --
Red-data book listing Vulnerable (B143, B147).
  • Loss/disturbance of roosts, timber treatment, changes in use of cellars/outhouses.
  • Vulnerability increased by inability to travel long distances and consequent restriction in choice of potential roosts.
  • Loss of insect prey due to habitat change.
  • N. B. highly sensitive to disturbance.

(B142, B143, B147, B221).

Captive Populations --
Trade --

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