Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Chiroptera / Rhinolophidae / Rhinolophus / Species
Rhinolophus ferrumequinum - Greater horseshoe bat (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Grand rhinolophe (French)
  • Groe Hufeisennase (German)
  • Murcilago grande de herradura (Spanish)

Alternative species names (the second part of the binomial species names): [Genus] brevitarsus; [Genus] colchicus; [Genus] creticum; [Genus] equinus; [Genus] fudisanus; [Genus] germanicus; [Genus] hippocrepis; [Genus] homodorensis; [Genus] homorodalmasiensis; [Genus] insulanus; [Genus] irani; [Genus] italicus; [Genus] korai; [Genus] kosidanus; [Genus] martinoi; [Genus] mikadoi; [Genus] nippon; [Genus] norikuranus; [Genus] obscurus; [Genus] ogasiamus; [Genus] proximus; [Genus] quelpartis; [Genus] regulus; [Genus] rubiginosis; [Genus] typicus; [Genus] tragatus; [Genus] ungula; [Genus] unihastatus (B141).

Names for new-borns / juveniles

Names for males -
Names for females  

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General Appearance

Tablespoon-sized (pear-sized) buff-brown bat with broad wings. Wings wrapped around body (sometimes at sides when not torpid), membranes matt brownish purple to pink. Centres of ears very white, face and ears usually exposed in torpid bats. Complex nose-leaf. Ears lack tragus (B52, B142, B167).

Similar Species

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

(B142, B167)

Sexual Dimorphism Males slightly smaller than females: 2% shorter forearm length, 2-15% lighter weight (B142).

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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

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

Husbandry references:

(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


  • Difficult to maintain in captivity (B142).
  • No record of successful breeding in captivity (B142).
Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

  • Head-body length: 56-68mm (B142).
  • Forearm length: 50.6-59.0mm (B142).
  • Wingspan: 330-395mm: male mean 54.8mm, female mean 55.5mm (B142).
Height --
Adult weight General
  • 16.5-28g (B147).
  • Weight loss during hibernation may be 30% in first year individuals and 20% in adults (B52).
  • First winter:  Late October 24.4 + 0.8g, Late January 19.7g + 0.4g, Early April 16.6g + 0.2g. (B142).
  • Fourth winter onwards: Late October 26.0 + 1.3g, Late January 21.9g + 0.2g, Early April 18.1g + 0.4g. (B142).
  • First winter: Late October 25.8 + 0.8g, Late January 20.4g + 0.3g, Early April 16.9g + 0.2g. (B142); November 22g/0.8oz., April 16g/0.6oz. (B52).
  • Fourth winter onwards: Late October 30.5 + 0.7g, Late January 25.0g + 0.7g, Early April 19.8g + 0.1g. (B142).
  • "Old females" November 26g/0.9oz, April 21g/0.75oz. (B52).
New-born weight 6.2g (B142).
Growth rate
  • 13g and forearm length 50mm (from 26mm at birth) by 17 days.
  • Steady weight increase to 50 days, then erratic.


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General Skull: Length >20mm (B142)

Nose: 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. Ear length 21-26mm (B52, B142, B147, B167).

Dentition (Teeth) I 1/2 C1/1 P 2/3 M 3/3 (B142, B147).
Eyes Small (B142, B147).

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Legs and Tracks

  • Wings broad with rounded ends (B52, B147).
  • Forearm length: 50.6-59.0mm (B142).
  • Wingspan: 330-395mm (B142)
  • Hindlegs long and thin (B142).

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Relatively short (B142).

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Coat / Pelage

Adult Female Thick, fluffy, buff-brown.
  • Hairs pale buff with darker tips.
  • Ventral slightly paler.
  • Membranes brownish-purple to pink, matt not shiny.
  • Ears have white centres.

(B142, B167)

Variations (If present)
  • Coat darker and becoming reddish (even chestnut) with age (B142).
  • Begins late May/early June (once regular dawn and dusk feeding has started) and completed by late June/early July (B142).
New-born / Juvenile

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Neonate (New-born) Characteristics

  • Fur short, sparse, grey, not present on abdomen or (pink) wing membranes (B142).
  • Forearm length: about 26mm (B142).

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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
  • Copulation late September/October (B142).
Oestrus / Ovulation
  • Ovulation mid-April (B142).
Gestation / Pregnancy
  • About 50 days. Variable depending on periods of torpor (B142).
  • About seven weeks (B147).
Parturition / Birth
  • Usually July. Occasionally late June or early August.
  • Female hangs from feet. Infant emerges into overlapping wings. Soon after, parked in roost while female leaves to feed.


Late spring (B147)

Neonatal development
  • Birth: Blind. Fur sparse, short, grey. Abdomen unfurred, wing membranes pink.
  • 9 days: eyes open. Emit ultrasonic sounds.
  • 17 days: flight possible.
  • 3 weeks: regularly flying from roost.
  • 5 weeks: start catching insects.


Litter size
Time between Litters / Litters per year
Lactation / Milk Production
  • Probably to about 50 days (based on weight changes of juveniles) (B142).
Sexual Maturity
  • Females usually three years, occasionally two years, occasionally four years or older (B142).
  • More than 20 years, e.g. males 26 years, females 24 years in Gloucestershire (B142); more than 29 years recorded (B147).

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Natural Diet

  • Mainly beetles and moths (B143)
  • Geotrupes sp. Dor beetles (late August to May).
  • Melolontha melolontha cockchafer beetles (may bugs) in spring (May and June).
  • Moths (May to August).
  • Large tipulid flies and Aphodius spp. dung beetles (August).

(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 30C prior to flight and to 40C while flying.


Pulse --
Respiration --
Faeces About 9-13 by 2.5mm. Colour and texture vary depending on diet (B142).
Haematology / Biochemistry --
Chromosomes 2n=58, FNa=60 (B142).
Other --

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Feeding Behaviour

  • Slow (8.3m/s maximum) hunting flight, following regular flight paths some distance from roost.
  • Hunt at low level, over grass and in woodland/woodland edges.
  • Take dor beetles from ground.
  • Hang in trees waiting for prey to pass (perch feeding).
  • May alight to eat large prey.

(B142, B143, B147)

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Parental Behaviour

Mother and young remain together to early September, remain apart over winter but first year immature often found at breeding site with mother in following year and may remain together after next infant born (B142).

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality

  • Immatures gregarious year-round.
  • Colonies of immatures plus adult males formed in winter, up to 300 animals per colony.
  • May form clusters
  • Adult females, particularly older females, more solitary in winter.
  • Nursery colonies of adult females, with some non-pregnant and immature animals, but males leaving by mid summer (when births occurring).
  • 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.
  • Clustering in roosts, particularly after feeding, reduces energy required for maintenance of body temperature.
  • Breeding male may stay in same site year-round.


Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Promiscuous. Territorial system with females coming into small hibernacula of breeding males (B52, B142).

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Predation in Wild

Tyto alba - Barn owls, tawny owl, rarely 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

Hibernation: may last late September to mid-May.

Arousal dependant on both temperature and time of year: in October rouse at 11-13C, in February at about 7C, then rises again, but may rouse daily at 11C in October, versus every 6-10 days at 7C in February.

May move up to 10km in winter while searching for suitable-temperature hibernacula or feeding sites.

Older, higher-weight bats select slightly higher hibernation temperatures than do young, light-weight individuals (12C/54F versus 6C/43F) but rouse less frequently during the winter. (B52).

(B52, B142, B147)

Circadian Daily activity rhythm.
  • Arousal and flight at dusk.
  • Emergence lasts about 30 minutes.
  • Timing sunset to 35 minutes after sunset, depending on cloud cover and reproductive phase..
  • Second flight time at dawn starts in spring.
  • May to early August return to roost (breeding roost or temporary resting place) after feeding: groom, digest, defecate, urinate.
  • Late August may not return to breeding roost at night.


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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

  • Areas with mixed deciduous forest cover on steep south-facing slopes and permanent cattle-grazed pastures (insects such as beetles and moths plentiful).
  • Also require access to series of hibernacula dispersed among feeding areas.
  • Crucial temperature (mean temperature minimum 10C in April and May) for determination of timing of births, and population levels (B143).

(B52, B142, B143)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

  • Hibernacula: caves, mines, cellars, tunnels with a range of air flow patterns and temperatures, undisturbed by humans and with relative humidity usually over 90%.
  • Breeding site:
  • In building with at least one sun-warmed attic, or if population large, a structure which is also used as a hibernaculum. (B142)
  • Warm caves, mines or attics (B143)


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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Palearctic: Europe and Asia from Britain to Japan, south to north-western Africa, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, northern India. (B52, B142, B143).
  • "Southern Palearctic - Great Britain and Morocco to Afghanistan and Japan" (B147).
  • Britain and Morocco to north India and Japan (B51).
  • In Europe: southern and central Europe, Britain (south-western England, south and west Wales) (B143).
  • In Britain: limited to south-west (B142)
  • Usually below 800m, rarely may be found up to 2000m (B143).


  • Sedentary; usually less than 20-30km between summer and winter roost sites.
  • Movements of up to 35km from breeding site, rarely greater distances.
  • Return to breeding site annually.
  • Longest recorded movement 180km (B143).
  • (B142, B143)
Occasional and Accidental --


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Intraspecific variation

Rhinolophus ferrumequinum insulanus Barrett-Hamilton, 1910 (Cheddar, Somerset) subspecific name used for British animals on basis of slightly smaller size. Not considered a valid subspecies (B142).
  • Size clines: larger individuals in warmer areas (B143).

Six subspecies recognised. Two subspecies within Europe:

  • Rhinolophus ferrumequinum ferrumequinum.
  • Rhinolophus ferrumequinum creticus Iliopoulou-Georgudaki & Ondrias, 1986 (Crete).


Rhinolophus ferrumequinum nippon Temminck, 1935 northern and central China, Korea, Japan may be separate species (B143).

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
  • Declining throughout range (B52).
  • Population declines in UK in early 1960s and 1980s probably related to weather conditions, with loss of insect prey and replacement of deciduous by coniferous trees making recovery slower or impossible (B143).
  • Declines in some areas linked to loss of disused mines and human disturbance of caves (B143).
  • In Britain: native, very rare and endangered. Pre-breeding population estimate of 4000-6500, including 3650 in England, 0 in Scotland, 350 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
  • Lower risk - conservation dependent (B143, B147).
  • Vandalistic killing.
  • Roost destruction.
  • Roost disturbance by e.g. tourists and sport cavers.
  • Treatment of timbers with insecticides.
  • Loss of suitable habitats (woodland with adjacent old pasture) and therefore of insect prey.

(B52, B143, B147, B221).

Captive Populations  

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