Hysterocrates gigas • 5/8″


Hysterocrates gigas (Cameroon rusty red baboon) from the South East Region, Cameroon, captive bred. This large, central African fossorial has stout rear legs, presumably for excavating. Thrives in slightly higher humidity. Recommended for intermediate and advanced hobbyists.

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Central and west Africa quarter all 25 described species of Hysterocrates (World Spider Catalogue, 2020). Of these, hobbyists commonly keep only two, Hysterocrates gigas and Hysterocrates laticeps. In 1897 Pocock described H. gigas from a British Museum specimen collected in the Cameroons. He also mentioned a mutilated example in the museum’s collection, “apparently of this species,” locality recorded simply, “Oil River” [1].

Tinta, Assumbo, Mamfe, Cameroon GPS data from [3]
In 1990, A. M. Smith redescribed H. gigas based on an additional specimen submitted in 1933. A female and spiderlings had been found under a termite mound in Tinta Valley, Assumbo, Manife district, Cameroons, 2,200 feet (left)[2].

Tinta lies in remote highlands of southeast Cameroon (Manyu Division, South East Region, Cameroon) at the northern edge of the Takamanda National Park, upgraded from forest reserve in 2008 in part to protect the rare Cross River gorilla. Tinta demarcates the boundary between southern rain forest and northern savanna. Tinta also sits on a hydrological divide, between Niger River watershed and Cross River watershed [4]. Oil River is not shown on modern maps, but at least one historical document accounts for the Oil River name:

“…palm oil to which the trade of the English protectorate, centred on the Calabar [i.e. Cross] river, owes its prosperity, originates here and gave the Cross River its other name, the Oil River [as all the navigable rivers between the Niger and the Cross were usually called].” [5]

The Niger and Cross Rivers were highways of the palm oil industry at the turn of the century. In Cameroon the Cross River (Oil River) basin extends up through Takamanda to Tinta. From Tinta to the Cross River to the ocean, an astounding 80-120 inches of rain fall annually.

Hysterocrates gigas characteristics

An obligate burrower, captive H. gigas is a bulldozer that over time rearranges most of its substrate. Like its Pelinobius and Theraphosa cousins, H. gigas is somewhat drought intolerant. Captive specimens will crawl, unprovoked, in and out of water, possibly an evolutionary adaptation to seasonally flooded burrows. Hysterocrates laticeps also exhibits this behavior (Melody Frasier, personal communication).

Peaceable living in groups beyond subsocial behavior has not been scientifically demonstrated for H. gigas [6]. Although some hobbyists report peaceful living beyond the juvenile stage, others have been less successful.

At later stages in a molt cycle, juveniles and older specimens are rusty reddish brown. Freshly molted specimens are contrasting shades of grey. With moderate attention to prevent desiccation, H. gigas is easy to keep and breed.

The first photo above shows an adult female with offspring, intermolt; second an adult female, recent molt, eating posture.


[1] Pocock, R. I. (1897b). On the spiders of the suborder Mygalomorphae from the Ethiopian Region, contained in the collection of the British Museum. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 65(3): 724-774, Pl. XLI-XLIII.

[2] Smith, A. M. (1990c). Baboon spiders: Tarantulas of Africa and the Middle East. Fitzgerald Publishing, London. pp. 1-142.

[3] Wilson, D. E. & Reeder, D. M. (Eds.). (2005). Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), Johns Hopkins University Press. 2,142 pp.

[4] Ntchantcho, R., Anye, L., Aka, F., Kankeu, B., Buh, G., Ndifon, P., Nnange, J. and Hell, J. (2017). The Debris Flow of 1st August 2012 in Kakpenyi-Tinta (Akwaya Sub Division) Southwest Cameroon—I: Event Description, Causes and Impacts. Open Journal of Geology7, 1337-1351.

[5] Chilver, E., & Röschenthaler, U. (Eds.). (2001). Cameroon’s Tycoon: Max Esser’s Expedition and its Consequences. Berghahn Books. Retrieved January 31, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1btc082.

[6] Varrecchia, M. M., Gorley, V. A., & Marshall, S. D. (2004). Group size does not influence growth in the Theraphosid spider Hysterocrates gigas (Aranae, Theraphosidae, Eumenophorinae). The Journal of Arachnology 32(2): 324-331.

Additional information

Weight .01 lbs
Dimensions 1 × 0.5 × 0.5 in