Which rhinoceros beetles make for the coolest pets?

Last week on W.T.F. Japan we looked at the top five most confusing Japanese counter words. I hope you remember the counter word for bugs, because this week we’re going to be seeing a lot of them!

Beetles are among the most popular pets in Japan for children, especially boys. Most apartments don’t allow cats and dogs, and beetles are a low maintenance pet that can still give you all the love and affection you crave… so long as you don’t mind it crawling on your arm.

But if you want to unleash your inner Japanese elementary school boy and get a beetle of your own, there’s one problem: there are so many different types to choose from. The two big groups are kabutomushi (rhinoceros/horned beetles) and kuwagatamushi (stag beetles), but there are also scarab beetles and plenty more.

That’s why this week we’re starting off by counting down the top 5 Japanese pet kabutomushi beetles. We want to give all the awesome beetles their own chance to shine, so we may get to the others in the future, but for now we’ll just concentrate on arguably the most popular category: rhinoceros/horned beetles. We’ll also be sticking with males only, since females typically don’t have horns and are much smaller.

So let’s get to it! Starting off with…

#5. Yamato kabutomushi – Japanese rhinocerous/horned beetle

The first beetle on our list is one of the few that’s actually native to Japan: the yamato kabutomushi. Yamato is the old word for “Japan,” so these guys have probably been inhabiting the island for far longer than their human owners have.

The auburn-shelled yamato kabutomushi are one of the most popular species of beetles to keep as pets. They can be found all over Japan, so it’s not too hard to go into the woods and catch your own.

But even if you can’t, most home centers and pet shops have them available for around 500 yen (US$5) each. At around 30 to 50 millimeters (1 to 2 inches) long, they’re big enough to be impressive, but not small enough to get lost either.

Even though these beetles are on the smaller side, they can still pack quite a punch. Their horn is strong enough to flip other beetles up into the air, as you can see in this video:

▼ I like the third beetle who shows up
for a second and then is like “Nope! I’m out!”

Unless you want to cause a beetle war inside your home, it’s usually best to only raise one beetle at a time. They can be quite aggressive against each other, especially some of the larger species like…

#4. Atorasu ōkabuto – Atlas beetle

The triceratops didn’t go extinct! It just shrunk down into beetle form.

The Atlas beetle begins the line of more rare and coveted beetles. These guys are found throughout South/Southeast Asia in India, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. They are much larger than the yamato kabutomushi, averaging between 45 to 110 millimeters (1.8 to 4.3 inches). They can be also be very aggressive, using their three horns to defend territory and food from other males.

Because they have to be imported from overseas and are a little bit more of a “collector’s item,” Atlas beetles run around 1,000 yen each. But would you expect any less for a bug named after the mythological titan holding up the Earth?

▼ Such a fancy bug demands fancy food. Skip to 1:40 to watch
an Atlas adorably munching on some Baumkuchen cake.

▼ When they’re not defending their food, they can be
quite docile as this enthusiastic beetle-lover shows.

#3. Nepuchūn ōkabuto – Neptune beetle

The Neptune beetle continues the tradition of beetles named after mythology, this time Neptune, the god of the sea. We’re not sure if it got its name because of its dark blue color or simply because it’s a badass bug, but either way it’s fitting.

Neptune beetles come from South America and can vary in size from 55 to 165 millimeters (2 to 6.5 inches).They vary in price depending on their size and location, but they usually run around 2,000 yen to 4,000 yen each.

The first thing most people notice about Neptune beetles are the double horns. They’re nearly as long as the rest of its body, and the top one is covered in the same orange hair that grows underneath its body.

▼ Oh and did you notice the extra horns sticking out between the
set of two massive ones? Because MOAR HORNS = MOAR POWAR!

Beetle-aficionados love the Neptune beetle for its size and intimidation factor. Forget “Beware of Dog,” “Beware of Neptune Beetle” would be a far more terrifying sign!

▼ Not convinced? Check out this video with the appropriate theme music
and try to tell me the Neptune beetle isn’t basically the bug Terminator.

#2. Kōkasu ōkabuto – Caucasus beetle

The Caucasus beetle is one of the first on the list that is not prized entirely for its size or strength, but rather for its beauty. These guys that are native to southeast Asia have a lustrous green coat that shimmers in the light.

▼ From 2:20 to the end you can see a close-up of the Caucasus’s
reflective shell that gives off a rainbow of colors.

Of course that’s not to say that Caucasus beetles can’t hold their own when it comes to power and size. They have three massive horns and a smaller one in the middle similar to the Neptune beetle. They can grow from 50 to 130 millimeters (2 to 5 inches), and cost around 2,000 yen each.

▼ If this picture doesn’t make you go “aww!” or “hell yeah!”
then you’re in the wrong place.

wtf-beetles-01Wikimedia Commons/bugman95

And the #1 Japanese pet kabutomushi beetle is…











1. Herakuresu ōkabuto – Hercules beetle

Pretty much anyone who has ever heard anything about Japanese pet beetles knows about the one… the legendary… Hercules beetle.

If you ever need to get elementary school Japanese boys excited, just mention the Hercules beetle and we guarantee that eyes will light up, voices will ring out, and lots of beetle-impersonations will be had.

Why is the Hercules beetle so popular? Because it’s frigging huge! There are a bunch of different sub-species out there, but these guys can grow anywhere from 45 to 178 millimeters (1.5 to 7 inches).

▼ Even the Hercules beetle larvae is enormous!

▼ Just look at that thing.
This lady can’t believe what she’s holding!

And it’s not just the girth that’s intimidating on these things either. The Hercules beetle’s horns are long, powerful, thick, and jagged, making it look like its ready to crack in half anyone who dares come into its territory.

▼ Skip to 0:30 to hear from a Smithsonian zookeeper how Hercules beetles
use their powerful horns to lift up their heavy encasings and escape.

Of course, all of that glorious beetle-ness comes at a hefty price. Hercules beetles typically come from Central and South America where they’re fairly rare, meaning an average Hercules costs around 15,000 to 20,000 yen, and the super big ones can get up to 70,000 yen.

That seems like a lot to spend on a pet that has a lifespan of less than a year, but for those who want the ultimate beetle experience, there is no replacement for the god among men – Hercules.

▼ This guy basically has a bug-gasm starting at 4:20
and I can’t blame him in the least.

So there you have it, the top five Japanese pet kabutomushi beetles. There’s a lot of other kabutomushi beetles out there, did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments so we can bug out with the best beetles possible!

References: Naver Matome, pepy
Featured/top image: Wikimedia Commons/Furry yui (1, 2) (Edited RocketNews24)

We’ll be back next Thursday with a very special W.T.F. In the meantime, give me a follow on Twitter and let me know if there’s any topics you’d like to see covered on W.T.F. Japan. See you next week!