Hysterocrates gigas • 1 1/2″


Hysterocrates gigas (Cameroon rusty red baboon) from Cameroon rainforest, captive bred. This large, central African fossorial has stout rear legs, presumably for excavating. Thrives in 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 (Cameroon). He also mentions a mutilated example in the museum’s collection, “apparently of this species,” its locality recorded simply, “Oil River.” [1]

Tinta, Assumbo, Mamfe, Cameroon GPS data from [3]
In 1990, 93 years later, Smith redescribed H. gigas based on an additional specimen. In 1933 a Mr. J. Sanders had found a female and spiderlings under a termite mound in “Tinta Valley, Assumbo, Manife district, Cameroons, 2,200 feet” (left). [2]

Tinta village lies in a valley at the boundary between rain forest and savannah. No modern map shows an Oil River, but historical documents mention the Oil Rivers Protectorate (Niger Delta), and one mentions the Oil River specifically:

“…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].” [4]

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) lies in rainforest south of 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 less tolerant of drought conditions. 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 and video). H. gigas can remain underwater for hours (personal observation). Is H. gigas a swimming spider? Yes, as are tarantulas as a whole. Is H. gigas a fishing spider? It depends on whether grabbing prey under various degrees of immersion is fishing. Lastly, is H. gigas communal? Peaceable living in groups beyond subsocial behavior has not been demonstrated for H. gigas. [5] Indeed, higher instars raised together inevitably cannibalize each other (observed here & by others). In or out of water, there are plenty of behaviors, except communal, to make H. gigas interesting to own.

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 humidity, H. gigas is easy to keep and breed.

The clip above shows one of the specimens offered capturing prey. The photo above shows a recently molted adult female in an 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] 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.

[5] 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