In 2007, Stéphane Rennesson, Emmanuel Grimaud and I went to the field to study a popular Thai activity : beetle fighting! Indeed, each September, the inhabitants of the Chiang Mai district, fond of games and bets, neglect cock fighting in favor of organized beetle joustings.
Compared with other insects, at 7 centimeters long, a rhino beetle of the genus Xylotrupes is a titan endowed with prodigious strength. A powerful claw, formed by the male beetle’s two black horns, gives him fighting abilities well known in the northern part of Thailand. Official matches take place under hundreds of watchful eyes during an annual festival that is also broadcast on national television. Caught in the wild, the male beetles are carefully selected for their size and horn shape. Then, while pampered, they undergo gladiator training. When the fighting day comes, the beetles are stimulated by the pheromones of two female beetles kept inside a wooden log that is also used as a ring. Each opponent tries to destabilize the other, much like wrestlers do. After several rounds, the fight ends with the utter exhaustion of the defeated beetle.
Rennesson S., Grimaud. E., Césard, N, 2012, Insect Magnetism. The communication circuits of Rhinoceros beetle fighting in Thailand. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2(2): 257-86.
Rennesson S., Grimaud. E., Césard, N, 2012, Le scarabée conducteur. Le jeu de kwaang, entre vibration et coopération, Terrain, n° 58/mars 2012, Pourquoi coopérer, pp. 94-107.
Rennesson S., Grimaud. E., Césard, N., 2011, Quand deux scarabées se rencontrent sur un ring. Petite ethnographie du jeu de kwaang, R, in Sophie Houdart et Olivier Thierry (Dir.) Humains, Non-Humains. Comment repeupler les sciences sociales, Paris, Editions La découverte, pp. 30-39.
Des gladiateurs miniatures. National Geographic France (2 photos, article by L. Crooson). Janvier 2009. Vol. 20.1. n°112. 1 page.
Rennesson S., Césard, N., Grimaud. E., 2008, Duels en miniature. La délicate mise en scène des combats de scarabées dans le nord de la Thaïlande , Insectes, OPIE-INRA, n° 151 (4), pp. 3-6.