Winning Big in Northern Thailand’s Rhinoceros Beetle Matches
CHIANG RAI – Every year in northern Thailand, groups of men gather to take part in a unique activity: beetle fighting. Some men come to fight beetles and gamble, while others come simply to meet and socialise with friends.
The fights are organized once a year and offer a break from the daily routine in small, Thai villages.
Participants are typically low-income farmers, but there are also wealthy competitors.
Locals capture the rhinoceros beetles in the jungle during the beetle mating season in September. An average beetle can be sold for about 50 baht ($1.40), but a champion-caliber insect can go for as much as 3,000 baht ($84).
The owners bring their beetles to the small arenas where the fighting takes place. They match the beetles by size and character and when two similar beetles are found, bets are placed and the competitors will head onto the fighting stage – a log of wood, crafted with holes wherein a female, pheromone-secreting beetle is trapped.
The two male beetles are thus motivated to fight over the female beetle. Gamblers place bets as beetles fight over a female. Loser beetles are released, while the victorious beetles continue fighting.
They lift and push their opponents with their huge horns; the victorious beetle will break its opponent’s horn or cause it to flee.
Matches are broken up into rounds each time the beetles lock horns. If a match continues for 12 rounds, the contest is declared a draw. Bets, which can range from 100 baht ($3) to as much as 50,000 baht ($1,400), add drama to the occasion.
The losing beetle is typically returned to the jungle, while winners are kept on pieces of sugar cane to fight again.
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