The animals have never before been seen socialising in groups. New high definition cameras which function with nearly no light made the discovery possible
Famed for their grumpy, solitary lifestyles, socialising has never been known as a priority for rhinos.
But new footage shot in Africa has revealed how the black variety of the animal enjoy regular night-time liaisons involving kisses, cuddles and a level of social interaction previously unknown in the species.
Thanks to the latest high definition night vision cameras, scientists are now able to observe the animals in the dark for the first time, and have observed a boisterous personality trait that rarely appears during the daytime.
In footage captured for Sir David Attenborough’s latest BBC wildlife series, Africa, 50 animals were revealed to be gathering in groups of up to 16 each night.
Paul Brehem, who was the scientific adviser for the film crew, told the Sunday Telegraph: 'For us to see this happening at night is extraordinary. It seems to be happening every night and we could see different individuals coming and going each night.
'This hasn’t really been documented or seen before. We thought the extent of their social interaction was individual males wandering around and searching out females to mate with.'
The documentary revealed romance was not dead to the breed, with the animals coming together to rub noses, play together and communicate using a range of sounds including high pitched squeaks for calves, and loud bellows by the older adults.
In a sophisticated attempt to win the attention of a female, a young male picked up a pair of antelope horns with his own horns and gave them to her.
But the solicitation ends badly when the female snubs his advances by pretending to go to sleep.
Mr Brehem added: 'What is so touching is that there is a whole side to them that we were not aware of and had not been able to record before.'
Previously the crews could only use the light of the moon to observe the rhinos at night, but the cover of darkness meant the goings-on of their social engagements stayed secret.
There are two types of African rhinoceros – black and white, the latter being more common and more sociable during the day.
The shot had to be delayed for a year while a camera that could work with almost no light was being developed.
It enabled the crew to observe that the eyes of the rhinos were wide open.
The exact location of filming will not be revealed due to the threat of poachers.
The sequence is part of a landmark new series profiling Africa as never before caught on film.
Other scenes show eagles catching giant bats on the wing, lizards stalking their prey on the backs of lions, antelope-hunting monkeys and a nail-biting giraffe fight.
Breath-taking: The documentary shows fog lingering over the mountainous dunes, supplying the desert with precious moisture
Featured on the programme was an aerial view of Namib desert dunes - showing the vaporous fog which provides just enough moisture to allow life to exist.
The programme also featured two African lions competing for dominance
Captured: A shoebill stork chick was filmed in the nest for the first time. The birds proved very difficult to find and crews researched them for six months