Rhinolophus ferrumequinumgreater horseshoe bat

Geographic Range

Rhinolophus ferrumequinum are found in northern India, south to northwestern Africa and throughout temperate Eurasia including Great Britain and Japan

(Koopman, 1994). They are also found throughout Turkey, Israel and Jordan (DeBlase, 1980)


Rhinolophus ferrumequinum prefer to dwell in karst caves and cave-like spaces under boulders year-round (DeBlase, 1980). In the winter, R. ferrumequinum roost in caves warmer then 7-10 degrees Celsius. This species prefers warmer regions, which have water, shrubs and trees (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997).

Physical Description

Rhinolophus ferrumequinum is the largest horseshoe bat in Europe (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997). Its most distinctive feature is the upper saddle process or noseleaf, the upper part of which is pointed while the lower part is horseshoe shaped (Nowak, 1994). Tooth and bone structures distinguish R. ferrumequinum from other rhinolophids. The first premolar on the upper jaw protrudes from the row of teeth. Often this premolar is very small or non-existent. The third and fourth metacarpal bones in the wings are shorter than those of its relatives (Koopman, 1994). The tragus is absent (Simmons and Conway, 1997). The length of the head and body ranges from 57 to 71mm, the tail length ranges from 35 to 43 mm and the forearm from 54 to 61 mm. The wing span ranges from 350 to 400 mm, and the weight from 17 to 34 grams. The Greater horseshoe bat can also be identified by its color. The back is brownish gray with a slight tint of red, while the underside is a lighter gray color. The membrane that connects the forearm and tail is brownish gray. Young R. ferrumequinum are uniformly gray. (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)

  • Range mass
    17 to 34 g
    0.60 to 1.20 oz
  • Range length
    57 to 71 mm
    2.24 to 2.80 in
  • Range wingspan
    350 to 400 mm
    13.78 to 15.75 in


Females are not sexually mature until their third year, while males are sexually reproductive at age two. Females often do not have young until their fifth year (Racey,1982). Mating usually occurs in the fall but can also occur in the spring (Rossiter et al. 2000). Fertilization does not take place until later and is controlled by the females (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997). After mating, the vagina of Rhinolophus ferrumequinum females is closed by a vaginal plug secreted by the male. It is speculated that the plug is used to keep unwanted sperm out, as a method of mate selection (Fenton, 1984) or to hold the sperm until fertilization in the spring (Rossiter et al., 2000). Female R. ferrumequinum return to the same roosting area year after year to give birth and care for their young.

  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    80 days
  • Average weaning age
    8 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 to 5 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 to 5 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 years

A female produces one baby which is typically born during June or July (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997). Young open their eyes at 7 day and can fly during the third to fourth week. After seven to eight weeks, young are ready to leave the roost. Females form maternity roosts in warmer places such as attics to care for the young (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997). Greater horseshoe bats lose their milk teeth before birth (Nowak, 1994).


Lifespan/ Longevity: The oldest recorded age of an R. ferrumequinum is 30 years (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)


When R. ferrumequinum hibernate, they wrap themselves in their wing membranes and hang upside down from the roof of their cave. Hibernation takes place from October until April (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997) with bats sleeping in clusters rather than singly (McNab, 1982). During hibernation, R. ferrumequinum irregularly awake (Erkert, 1982).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Rhinolophus ferrumequinum hunt at nightfall. This species is an insectivore and preys primarily on larger insects such as Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and Coleoptera (beetles) (Jones, 1990). In order to obtain their prey, hunting bats fly close to the ground surface (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997). Rhinolophus ferrumequinum does not hunt in the winter unless the air temperature is warm enough for insect flight, and as a result they hunt less during colder and inclement weather (Racey, 1982). Like other microchiropteran bat species, R. ferrumequinum use echolocation to locate their prey. This species emits a call consisting of short blasts at a low frequency (77-81 kHz) (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997). The call is emitted from the nose, not the mouth (Nowak, 1994).

  • Animal Foods
  • insects

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Conservation Status

Rhinolophus ferrumequinum are threatened in western Germany and Austria. Because R. ferrumequinum are sensitive to human disturbances, a special effort has to be made to protect the roosts and to lower the amount of insecticides used on crops in western Germany and Austria. The insecticides kill R. ferrumequinum prey, thus destroying their only food source (Nowak, 1994), as well as harming the bats themselves

Other Comments

There are six subspecies of R. ferrumequinum: R.f. ferrumequinum, R.f. creticus, R.f. proximus, R.f. tragatus, and R.f. nippon. They are found in Europe and northwestern Africa, Crete, southwestern Asia to Kashmir, northern India and southwestern China, and northern and central China, Korea and Japan, respectively (Koopman, 1994).


Rebecca Price (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kate Teeter (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

delayed fertilization

a substantial delay (longer than the minimum time required for sperm to travel to the egg) takes place between copulation and fertilization, used to describe female sperm storage.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


mature spermatozoa are stored by females following copulation. Male sperm storage also occurs, as sperm are retained in the male epididymes (in mammals) for a period that can, in some cases, extend over several weeks or more, but here we use the term to refer only to sperm storage by females.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


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Erket, H. 1982. Ecological Aspects of Bat Activity Rhythms. Pp. 201-236 in T Kruz, ed. Ecology of Bats. New York: Plenum Press.

Fenton, M. 1982. Echolocation, Insect Hearing, and Feeding Ecology of Insectivorous Bats. Pp. 261-280 in T Kunz, ed. Ecology of Bats. New York: Plenum Press.

Fenton, M. 1994. Just Bats. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Koopman, K. 1994. Chiroptera: Systematics. New York: Walter de Gruyter.

McNab, B. 1982. Evolutionary Alternatives in Physiological Ecology of Bats. Pp. 151-196 in T Kruz, ed. Ecology of Bats. New York: Plenum Press.

Racey, P. 1982. Ecology of Bat Reproduction. Pp. 57-93 in T Kruz, ed. Ecology of Bats. New York: Plenum Press.

Rossiter, S., J. Jones, R. Ransome, E. Barratt. 2000. Genetic variation and population structure in the endangered greater horseshoe bat Rhinolophus ferrmequinum. Molecular Ecology, 9: 1131-1135.

Schober, W., E. Grimmberger. 1997. The Bats of Europe and North America. New Jersy: TFH Publications Inc..

Yalden, D., P. Morris. 1975. The Lives of Bats. New York: Quadrangle.